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Developer donates two houses instead of demolishing as land is prepared for condo project

It’s a novel approach by Edmonton-based developer TLA Developments, clearing the site for a five-storey, 46-unit condominium project.
One of the 1950s-era Selkirk Avenue homes in Esquimalt has already moved to Songhees lands to make way for a condo development; a second is set to go next Wednesday. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Two homes being removed to make way for a condominium project in Esquimalt are going to the Songhees First Nation to help alleviate a housing crunch on the reserve.

It’s a novel approach by Edmonton-based developer TLA Developments to clearing the site for a five-storey, 46-unit condominium project.

Instead of demolishing the two single-family homes at 815 and 825 Selkirk Avenue, TLA Developments opted to move them onto Songhees First Nation lands.

It has also given the plants, shrubs, trees and landscaping materials to neighbours and the First Nation to keep them out of the landfill.

One of the 1950s-era homes was moved to the Songhees lands on Feb. 27, while the other is slated for transport next Wednesday — both by Nickel Brothers, which specializes in moving houses.

Both houses were repaired by the development company, which also removed hazardous materials.

TLA Developments said the First Nation is preparing the new sites and holding a lottery among families to decide who gets the houses.

“It’s an honour to partner with the Songhees Nation and contribute to the well-being of their community,” said Troy Grant, managing partner of TLA Developments. “We’re happy to see these homes repurposed and provide families with safe, secure and long-term housing.

“It is just the right thing to do.”

Songhees Chief Ron Sam said given the housing shortage being felt across the region, which directly affects his community, the opportunity to move up-cycled houses onto the Songhees reserve is welcome. “We look forward to more chances to work with developers like TLA, keeping viable homes out of the landfill and providing families with safe, secure and long-term housing,” Sam said in a statement.

TLA Developments’ condominium project has been approved by Esquimalt council, and awaits final approval by staff for its development permit. Construction is expected to start this summer.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said she’s happy the houses are being repurposed to reduce landfill waste, a problem the Capital Regional District has been struggling with as development surges.

“Houses of this era are well-built and can be great homes,” the mayor said in a statement.

TLA Developments is owned and operated by former members of the military.

It builds multi-family and single-family homes across Western Canada and has projects underway in View Royal — a 37-unit condo building — and Salt Spring Island, where 12 townhomes are planned, as well as two condo buildings in Saanich.

Grant said one third of the company’s ownership is Aboriginal or Métis, including Grant Greyeyes, a long-time recruiter of First Nations people for Canada’s military.

Grant said the donation to the Songhees was part of the company’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls for action. “As part of a corporation, we have to find ways to be part of that,” said Grant.

As former military members, the owners of TLA Developments are enjoying its work with Esquimalt, said Grant, who hopes the new Sterling condo building will house current and former members of CFB Esquimalt. Grant noted that when the partners are working in Greater Victoria, they often stay in the Ward Room at CFB Esquimalt.

“It’s like going home for us,” he said.

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