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Premier opens new supportive housing project in Kelowna
The third jewel in what Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray says is the "triple crown" of affordable housing projects in the city has been officially opened by B.C. Premier Christy Clark.
Clark, who along with Gray, the area's three Liberal MLAs and officials from B.C Housing and the John Howard Society, joined three residents to ceremoniously cut the ribbon opening the New Gate Apartments Friday. The 49-unit supportive housing development in Rutland is operated by the John Howard Society.
"This is the final part of the triple crown," said Gray, referring to two other supportive housing buildings completed in the city in recent years as part of a partnership between the province signed in 2008.
Since then, Canadian Mental Health's Willowbridge building has opened at the corner of Pandosy Steet and Harvey Avenue (2010) and Now Canada's Tutt St Place in South Pandosy last year.
"Four years ago, our government and the City of Kelowna signed an agreement to build 128 new supportive housing units on three city-owned sites," said Clark. "Today the final and largest project has officially opened and is housing 49 individuals from this community who were previously homeless or at risk of homelessness."
Gray, who was mayor when the plans for the three buildings were drawn up and who offered city owned land for the projects, noted that three buildings followed the controversial construction of another complex built to help the homeless, the Cardington Apartments downtown on St. Paul Street.
That building, hosing people with drug and alcohol issues, was opposed by several area property owners and business operators in the area. Those opponents, said Gray at Friday's opening of the New Gate Apartments, have since apologized for their behaviour during their seven years ago fight to stop the Cardington Apartments from being built.
For New Gate, the provincial government provided a mortgage of close to $7 million for construction of the development and will provide annual operational funding of more than $725,000. The City of Kelowna provided land valued at $650,000.
"It's in the best interest of the City of Kelowna and its citizens that we create supported, affordable housing options for our most vulnerable," said Gray. "Through partnerships with other levels of government and community organizations, we have successfully leveraged our ability to provide land for the creation of new supportive housing."
The new four-storey building provides longer-term supportive housing to men and women at risk of homelessness. The John Howard Society of the Central and South Okanagan owns, manages and operates the building. Support workers provide on-site support services for the tenants.
"People can always change for the better and having safe, supportive housing is fundamental to anyone making and maintaining any positive life change," said Shelley Cook, executive director, John Howard Society of the Central and South Okanagan. "New Gate Apartments provides this opportunity for 49 men and women in our community. This building is John Howard Society's fourth supportive housing development to open in Kelowna, and it has helped to fill a need for longer-term supportive housing for men and women who have started to rebuild their lives."
Clark said in the last decade, the provincial government has invested $2.8 billion to provide affordable housing for low-income individuals, seniors and families across B.C. This year, more than 95,000 B.C. households will benefit from provincial social housing programs and services.
She said in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the government invested more than $22 million here to provide subsidized housing and rent supplements for almost 3,000 Kelowna households.