Province helps social agency buy Port Alberni building with affordable rents

The Canadian Mental Health Association in Port Alberni is the new owner of a 41-unit apartment block charging below-market-rates to its tenants.

The non-profit organization had leased the building at 3131 Fifth St. for nine years, but its lease was scheduled to expire next year.

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The owner put the property on the market and the provincial government stepped in to help the association purchase it for $4.8 million so the rents would remain affordable.

The association received a $3-million grant from the province and low-interest financing for a loan of $1.86 million to buy the 1980 building.

Tenants pay a monthly rent of $500 to $633 for suites in the building, which include 31 one-bedroom units and 10 two-bedroom units.

There are “very, very few” rental units and even fewer affordable units in Port Alberni, Katrina Kiefer, executive director of CMHA Port Alberni, said Friday.

It is “brutal” to try and find affordable housing in that community, she said.

Caretakers live in the Fifth Street building and work closely with the association, Kiefer said.

If another buyer had purchased the building, there was a chance the site would have been redeveloped or that rental rates would have increased significantly, said David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing.

“By purchasing this building, we are making sure that people in the community continue to have rental homes they can afford.”

Kiefer said it’s a “huge relief” that the association now owns the building and tenants won’t have to move, adding that she spoke to each tenant on Thursday, explaining the sale and telling them they could remain in their homes.

An independent appraisal of the site was completed on March 25, the province said in a statement, and the building and land were valued at $5.4 million.

The province is also supporting the creation of another 172 housing units in Port Alberni.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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