On the morning of July 28, 2022, members of Columbia Basin Trust, BC Housing, The City of Revelstoke, Absolute Contracting, and the Revelstoke Community Housing Society (RCHS) cut a ceremonial ribbon celebrating the opening of the Humbert Street project.
These homes are the result of a partnership between the province, BC Housing, Columbia Basin Trust, the City of Revelstoke and the (RCHS).
The project provides much-needed affordable housing to combat Revelstoke’s housing crisis and worker shortage — issues that Mayor Gary Sulz says go hand in hand during the event. The opening ceremony heard speeches from Mayor Gary Sulz, Columbia Basin Trust’s Vice-chairperson, David Raven, Kelly Miller, BC Housing Associate Vice President, Region Operations, Randy Driediger, Chairperson at RCHS, and Sheena Wells, Vice-chairperson at RCHS.
“We are thrilled to see this investment in affordable housing in our community come to fruition,” Revelstoke Mayor Gary Sulz said in a press release. “Council and the City of Revelstoke are proud to support these initiatives, as the ability to attract and maintain a quality workforce is imperative in a community like Revelstoke where tourism is an important economic driver. More importantly, Revelstoke is a more diverse and vibrant community when we have a variety of housing options available for our citizens.”
This building is part of B.C.’s 10-year, $7-billion housing plan.
Background: Learn more about the project and possible future direction of non-profit housing in Revelstoke
The story below is part of a feature that first appeared in print in Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine’s July 2022 issue. Read the entire e-edition here:
By Aaron Orlando
Revelstoke Community Housing Society (RCHS), an independent nonprofit organization run by volunteers, is hoping to welcome new tenants to its new Humbert Street project this summer, which will have 24 one-bedroom units.
The RCHS currently operates two rental housing facilities, a 12-unit townhouse complex and a separate duplex, both nearby on Oscar Street.
The non-profit society’s goal is to create a variety of affordable housing options in the community and draws on community-minded volunteers to run the operation. Essentially, they develop housing projects, including all the heavy lifting of getting land, zoning, grants, financing, and overseeing development contracting. Once completed, they oversee and manage the projects using property management companies.
The 24 new units on Humbert Street is the society’s biggest project to date and will feature one-bedroom units at $1,150 per month plus utilities. Tenants have to fit within an income window, and there is a maximum of two persons per unit, among other rules – like no pets.
The development game is a heavy lift for a volunteer-run organization, which essentially serves as a developer with capital subsidies from organizations like Columbia Basin Trust and BC Housing. In addition to the volunteers, they have a staff project manager, Rosie Denton, who works less than half-time due to budget constraints.
RCHS Chairperson Randy Driediger says they had hoped to bring rents on the project in for less, but the reality of construction costs and the fact they aren’t subsidized to operate means they have to operate within financial constraints.
“It’s a big responsibility for volunteers, but it’s a big role in the community,” says Driediger, which, again, largely falls on the shoulder of volunteers, who manage with the resources they have available.
The model is in contrast to other resort communities, such as Whistler, whose local government identified the housing issues created by mountain resort town development in the 1990s, and created and resourced the Whistler Housing Authority.
Future coordinated direction?
The most interesting part of the interview focused on possible future directions. Driediger, who is known for his work at Revelstoke Credit Union Insurance, and also through past community roles as a volunteer firefighter, says RCHS is doing a strategic planning review, and part of that has been networking with other housing groups.
Revelstoke has a seniors housing society and a newly formed employee housing society. In addition, BC Housing has told Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine that it plans to tender a contract for management services for its planned development on Downie Street, as well as its Rivers Edge and Columbia Gardens rental buildings, which it bought and renovated over the past several years.
Driediger says the ongoing discussions, which involve many parties, are at an early point. Where are the opportunities? How could governance be done differently? Are efforts being duplicated? Can they be better coordinated? All these questions are open for discussion, says Driediger, who notes RCHS board membership includes members who are on other housing societies.
The sense is it’s at an early stage, but something to watch as the housing and affordability crisis shows no signs of going anywhere. Can Revelstoke coordinate things better?
For now, Driediger says RCHS is focused on completing construction on the 24 new units on Humbert Street, then looking at next steps.
“We’re very excited,” he said.
You can apply for housing on the Revelstoke Community Housing Society website at www.revelstokecommunityhousing.com.