Construction continues on the 67 unit affordable housing project by BC Housing and CMHA at 250 Fifth Avenue SW on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Lachlan Labere - Salmon Arm Observer)

Interest in multi-family, commercial development picking up in Salmon Arm

2019 another strong year in city for construction of single and multi-family residential

Housing construction continues to be strong in Salmon Arm, with growing interest in developing more multi-family residential options.

While not a record year like 2018, Salmon Arm development services director Kevin Pearson said 2019 was definitely a strong year for the city for residential construction, with 80 single-family dwellings and 76 multi-family units built or initiated. In terms of building permit values, that’s $58.5 million in residential construction, not far behind the $66.8 million seen in 2018.

Of those 76 multi-family units, 67 are part of the affordable housing development underway at 250 Fifth Avenue SW. The development is part of a project being done in partnership by BC Housing and the Canadian Mental Health Association. The project is to include an additional 38 units with on-site supports for people who are experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.

“I can say we probably wouldn’t have had all of those built this year or this past year if it wasn’t for BC Housing and CMHA’s involvement,” said Pearson.

Looking ahead at 2020, Pearson says he anticipates another strong year, one that could be defined by a growing interest in multi-family residential and commercial development.

“I’m hearing continual interest in more multi-family and commercial – more commercial this year. Those are the two I’m hearing the most on,” said Pearson.

Read more: Affordable housing project in Salmon Arm expected to be complete by winter 2020

Read more: Salmon Arm, Sicamous to get $3 million for affordable housing projects

Read more: City of Salmon Arm wants to know residents’ housing priorities

Coun. Tim Lavery, who co-chairs a city committee on affordable housing, said there’s also been interest in developing other residential options, including rentals and types of congregate living.

“The rental accommodation gig is a really tough way to make money and we really haven’t had any developers here who have had either the expertise or interest going into it,” commented Lavery. “But we’re starting to see a spike in people going, ‘hmm,’ and when I say people I’m talking about developers. Because there is an opportunity here.”

As for congregate living, Lavery said the city changed zoning in medium and high density zoned areas to permit congregate living, and there are organizations now looking at Salmon Arm.

“They believe in a congregate-living approach, often to aging, but it could be for income equality as well…,” said Lavery, noting congregate living may mean there are common cooking or lounge areas.

Regarding Salmon Arm’s affordable housing needs, Lavery said a study on the matter is in the works, but notes the BC Housing/CMHA project will go some way to address the problem. Another way those needs are being addressed at the city level is through rezoning of residential properties to an R8 Residential Suite Zone, permitting in-house secondary or detached secondary suites.

Pearson explained the city receives a fairly steady stream R8 rezoning applications.

“We always seem to have an R8 rezoning application on the agenda, at least one, so slowly people are rezoning their properties for legal suites,” said Pearson. “And that’s really a mild form of densification right there.”

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