Housing society reapplies for Shaw Road project financing


While the Sunshine Coast Affordable Housing Society is nearing completion of a three-unit building on Franklin Road, its far more ambitious Shaw Road project has been stalled after it was denied funding by BC Housing and Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

But the group is hopeful that financing will be back on track by this spring.

In a letter to Gibsons council on Feb. 2, president Mike Alsop said it was clear by last November “that CMHC funding would not be coming.”

In a follow-up interview he told Coast Reporter the society received a letter in early December notifying them BC Housing had also denied their application.

Andy Broderick of New Commons Development, who worked with the society on the applications, said they had hoped to begin construction in December 2020 but now expect, pending financing approval, construction to begin this May.

He said the CMHC Co-Investment application for a grant and loan totalling $11.7 million was put on hold “because of their hesitancy to provide construction financing” – however it still remains open.

The group has reapplied for a mix of loans and grants worth about $8.3 million, as well as an operating subsidy, through BC Housing’s Community Housing Fund, with announcements also expected mid-February.

Total budget estimate for the project is $14.3 million.

Another application, meanwhile, has been made to CMHC’s Rapid Housing Initiative, with results expected mid-February. The amount budgeted under that application is $15 million, to accommodate the grant condition that the project be completed in about a year, said Broderick. The grant request is for $12.4 million.

Despite the financial setbacks, Alsop told councillors at the Feb. 2 meeting: “We’re not going to give up until it’s built. It’s that simple.”

The Town has already passed zoning and Official Community Plan bylaws for the project, which would see up to 70 affordable rental units built on Town property at 571 Shaw Rd.

As for the three-unit Franklin Road affordable housing project, the group is hoping it will be ready for occupants in May.

The society had planned to hire an executive director to oversee both the Franklin and Shaw developments, but at the meeting they informed council of a change in direction.

Alsop said COVID-19 delayed the search for an executive director and when a candidate was chosen, the person ultimately turned down the position in October.

Instead, the society has hired an administrator, Chris Neumeyer,on a one-year contract to “coordinate all aspects of the society’s activities in the community, allowing board members to focus on management of the Franklin Road units and consider new projects as they come up.”

Alsop said they have enough funding to keep Neumeyer on board for two years. =

Of the administrator role, society treasurer Gwen Willox said, “by the time we have that person busy for the second year we will have met, I hope, the town’s expectation for their grant, because we’re trying to establish ourselves as a permanent, ongoing society.”

The society used a portion of funding it received from Gibsons to cover the administrator’s $46,000 salary.

In October 2019 the group had requested money from the District of Sechelt and Town of Gibsons to hire an executive director and project manager, which it estimated would cost a total of $182,000 from then till the end of 2021.

The society has received a total of $80,000 from the Town of Gibsons in two grants over 2019 and 2020 for that purpose. Another $20,000 was committed to support the Franklin Road project.

The town has also committed $310,000 to the Shaw Road development through its affordable housing reserve fund, to be issued after an occupancy permit is secured for the site.

At the Feb 2 meeting, Mayor Bill Beamish spoke in support of the group. “We understand the challenges,” he said.

“You still continue to have our confidence and support and we look forward to this project going forward in a timely way.”