Affordable housing development plans unveiled in Kamloops

By Greg Fry / Chad Klassen
March 13, 2018 - 2:05pm Updated: March 13, 2018 - 5:33pm

KAMLOOPS — Marylyn Simpson was given new life 10 years ago when she was provided affordable housing by the John Howard Society.

"Low-income housing provides freedom. Freedom to be housed, to be safe, just so many things," said Simpson. "I can afford to do things like go to the movies, go to Blazer games, I can go to school [TRU], I can do things because I don't smoke or drink or any of those things."

Simpson spoke on Tuesday as the Kamloops John Howard Society announced, in partnership with the City of Kamloops, the creation of 52 affordable housing units on Fifth Avenue and St. Paul Street. 

"We are situating this project to be able to house more than just singles," said John Howard Society CEO Lindsey Lord. "It will have 1 or 2-bedroom units, allowing us to house single men, single women, single parents, couples. It may be a couple who is working who's unable to afford their current rent structure."

The city bought property from the Kelson Group in January for $2.35 million for the purpose of this kind of affordable housing complex. 

"We purchased five properties on St. Paul through our affordable housing reserve fund and we're using three of those for the project," said Kamloops mayor Ken Christian. "We're leasing those to the John Howard Society to allow them to get the weight of property purchase off this particular project, so it makes it viable."

The announcement concludes the 2015 Memorandum of Understanding with BC Housing in which the city committed to providing land for 98 new affordable housing units for those with low-to-moderate incomes.

It's the fifth affordable project announcement under mayor Christian's watch in five months, but he gives credit to the people behind the scenes, including a supportive council and the new provincial government. 

"People find themselves in varying circumstances. Some of them are fleeing from an unhappy marriage, others, as we heard today, are looking after grandchildren, others have disabilities, some have mental health issues," noted Christian.

"We need a broad approach to housing that will meet all those needs and it starts with things like emergency shelters, which we have provided and stepped up for, and it goes all the way to affordable home ownership for people who are looking to get into the housing market, so it's a broad continuum and this particular instance they're looking at supported and subsidized rental accommodation."

For Simpson, she knows first-hand how impactful these 52 units will be, and they are regular people who just need an extra hand. 

"Society has this vision of what low-income people look like," she said. "They look like them. They look like all of us. They are us. They're not drug addicts, they're not. They just want a life. They want to live in a nice, safe place."

The project is at a preliminary stage of planning, with construction expected to start next year.

Neighbours wanting to lean more about the project are invited to an open house on April 4 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Bedford Manor Boardroom, 529 Seymour Street.

Winter shelter to close soon after serving nearly 300 people