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Victoria building houses 25 low-wage earners

By ROSZAN HOLMEN May 23, 2012 · Updated 1:31 PM
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Kenneth Randall sits in his studio apartment in Pembroke Mews, a new 25-unit affordable rental development for low- to moderate-income adults, newly opened on Government Street. / Don Denton/News staff

'Tis the spring of affordable and supported housing.

On Tuesday, the Greater Victoria Housing Society celebrated the completion and full occupation of its second housing project this season, with two more potentially in the works.

Pembroke Mews, at the corner of Pembroke and Government Streets, offers 25 bachelor and one-bedroom units to low-income, working singles. The main floor – slated for commercial space, is owned by Knappett Projects, which constructed the building.

Tenant Kenneth Randall, 24, moved into one of the bachelor pads in February, after a string of living situations which included some time couch surfing and a stint in the closed Princess Mary restaurant.

The skateboarder works at Cabin 12, a restaurant often near the brink, whose dedicated staff put in a lot of volunteer hours to make it go, said Randall. Having a stable place to live as the restaurant went through a move made life a lot easier, he said.

"When the roof is leaking (or other things go wrong at home) you don't realize how much it clouds your mind and affects you," he said.

He now pays $610 per month in rent.

The City of Victoria contributed $250,000 to the project through its housing trust fund.

At the announcement Tuesday, Mayor Dean Fortin called housing affordability the region's biggest challenge.

"We are willing to face these challenges," he said. "It makes our city richer in so many ways."

The affordable housing project is just one in a series announced in short order.

Earlier this month, the city finished the first phase of a major renovation project to the former Traveller's Inn hotel it purchased on Queens Avenue.

The Greater Victoria Housing Society also recently completed construction of an affordable project at 21 Gorge Rd. E. It has recently submitted a rezoning proposal with a similar vision for the property next door – the former Friendly Inn – and is conducting a feasibility study on a third property.

On Friday, expect another housing announcement in Saanich on the site of the old Mt. View School. The project, called Vergo townhouses at 3808 Carey Rd., consists of affordable family housing.

rholmen@vicnews.com

Pembroke Mews project partners:

• Government of Canada: $655,000 Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program grant

• City of Victoria: $250,000 through Housing Trust Fund

• United Way: $100,000 in funding

• Province of B.C.: supported long-term financing of $2 million

• Business support from Knappett Construction, Coast Capital Savings, Home Depot