FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan 24, 2018
Silver Manor construction well underway
A five year vision of the Quesnel Lions will soon be realized: the $6.4 million seniors’ housing project is rising fast in North Quesnel. The building is named Silver Manor in honour of the deeply dedicated Lion and community volunteer, Ron Silver, who passed away in 2017.
“Construction started in October,” said Quesnel Lions Housing Society (QLHS) president Mitch Vik, “and the general contractor has moved with amazing speed since then. We’re already seeing walls go up and expect to welcome tenants by the end of 2018.”
“It’s a textbook example of how to make a big project like this happen,” said Vik, “and without BC government support, we’d be nowhere on this. There was no private sector business case, which helps explain why there hasn’t been a new apartment building in North Quesnel for more than a quarter century.”
The BC government provided $3.3 million in a forgivable loan and a $2.8 million mortgage, and QLHS provided the balance of financing mainly via community donations. The Quesnel Lions Club is by far the largest single donor, and hundreds of individuals and firms bought “bricks” to support the project.
“We started with small fundraisers like pancake breakfasts,” said Vik, “and thanks to grants from CMHC and Northern Health, we hired a development consultant in 2013 to prepare the business case. Once we had a business case, we attracted the interest and support of our MLA, Coralee Oakes, and BC Housing. We’ve had a great relationship with both from the get-go.”
BC Housing provided increasing help over time, supporting environmental and geotechnical studies, preliminary designs, and other essential groundwork. The strategy behind all of it was to prepare for a new BC government financing program, which was announced in 2016.
“We didn’t flounder for a moment,” says Vik, “although the going was sometimes slow, and we had challenges obtaining the city’s acceptance of the parking plan. To overcome that, we presented evidence about seniors’ housing parking in other places, and purchased an adjoining lot to expand the site.”
Vik credits the persistent work of MLA Oakes to help bring the project to the attention of BC Housing, and obtain critical seed funding for feasibility research.
“I think Ron Silver would be the first to acknowledge the steady determination of his fellow Quesnel Lions,” said Oakes. “It’s because of their vision and willingness to work through challenges at each stage of the project that we now have a comfortable home for independent seniors. It is an amazing legacy for our community.”
Vik says that the city was also supportive. “When we started, the city had little policy to support such projects. But the leadership of volunteer groups is usually what makes the difference, and in 2016 the city confirmed that it would waive development cost charges and a portion of property taxes. The planning staff in particular have been great to work with.”
Vik says that community fundraising through the “Buy a Brick” campaign and other efforts has been and continues to be one of the most important factors in the success of the project.
“In its decision making, BC Housing looked at how much funding and other support the project has from across the community. So far, we’ve raised over $110,000 through the Brick campaign alone, which is fantastic. The campaign is still on, because every dollar raised reduces our mortgage, and helps keep rents affordable.”
QLHS will begin accepting rental applications later in 2018 through a process to be announced. Vik stressed that board members and other Lions will not have a role in recruiting or approving individual applicants. “We’re expecting big demand for these units, and we’ll have a clear process based on need, and not on who applicants know,” said Vik.
QLHS was created by the Quesnel Lions Club in 2012 after the Lions, through consultation with the community, determined that more affordable housing for seniors is an important need for Quesnel. More information on the project can be found at www.qlionshousing.ca.
Contact: Mitch Vik, President, QLHS cell 250 983 6784
· The Quesnel Lions asked the community in 2011 for ideas on capital projects the Lions could pursue. Based on feedback, the Lions decided to focus on affordable housing for independent seniors. In 2012, led by former president Peter Nielsen, they bought property in North Quesnel.
· QLHS is in a friendly race with Dakelh and Quesnel Community Housing Society to open the first new apartment building in North Quesnel in more than 26 years (Dakelh is building apartments in downtown Quesnel). Both the QLHS and Dakelh projects will, by a large margin, be the most energy-efficient larger buildings ever built in Quesnel. The costs savings accrue mainly to renters.