Affordable housing project gets green light in Victoria

The 68-unit, four storey building will replace the aging Friendly Inn Motel buildings at 35-39 Gorge Rd. E.

Victoria city council approved the development of a non-profit affordable housing building Friday, a venture that could become more common as housing prices continue to rise.

The 68-unit, four storey building will replace the aging Friendly Inn Motel buildings at 35-39 Gorge Rd. E. and will consist of studios, one-to-three bedroom units and five townhouses.

The Greater Victoria Housing Society and Greater Victoria Rental Development Society, both non-profits, presented a joint application to city hall to build the structure.

“Right now, we’re targeting $675 rent for the studios,” said Kaye Melliship, executive director at Greater Victoria Housing Society.

“We may do better than that, and it really will depend on our mortgage when it opens in 2014,” she said.

Three-bedroom units could rent for a maximum amount of $1,475.

“For the new building, there will be a maximum (annual) income of about $65,000 as a household to qualify,” she added.

The housing society will also assume management of the building when it is completed.

A similar 52-unit building opened in March at 21 Gorge Rd. E. and has early signs of success, Melliship said.

Coun. Marianne Alto praised the joint venture between the two non-profits.

“Both of these organizations are hugely committed to creating greater affordable housing opportunities,” Alto said. “To have them come together like this … and present a well-designed project is something that should be applauded.”

Melliship said rental prices have cooled off in recent months, a trend that will inevitably turn around again before the building is completed.

“We’re building these buildings forever. Eventually, when the markets pick up and have higher rents, we will be managing our rents to keep them below market value,” she said.

The buildings are non-subsidized, and rely on fewer amenities and non-profit management to keep rent amounts low.