Politicians and developers broke ground on a housing project in downtown Kelowna on Friday, May 24 to make more rental apartments available for middle-income renters.
The PC Urban project, which was approved by city council in April 2018, involves construction of two, six-storey buildings at 726 Clement Ave., a former packinghouse site.
Between the two buildings, close to 160 rental homes designed for households with annual incomes ranging from $52,000 to $71,000 will be made available. The projected price for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,300 per month and the price for a two-bedroom apartment is projected to be $1,780 per month.
PC Urban Properties CEO Brent Sawchyn said that earthworks will begin next Monday, May 27 and construction will continue for 18 or 19 months, with completion expected by late 2020.
In addition to the rental apartments, for which applications will be made available around September 2020, Sawchyn said there will be roughly 19,000 square feet of shop space between the two buildings.
“Hopefully a yoga studio, perhaps a daycare, a coffee place,” he said of the main floors of the buildings. “It will be a really nice urban edge along Clement Street and along Richter.”
He also said the project would not have been possible without the support of the local and provincial governments.
At the local level, Sawchyn said city council accommodated the project by approving it without requiring the inclusion of underground parking.
“The rents we would have had to charge would have had to have been much higher to offset the cost,” he said.
The project is also part of the province’s HousingHub initiative, he said, which “was able to provide [them] with more attractive financing, which reduced [their] costs as well.”
The HousingHub, a division within BC Housing, is providing interim construction financing of approximately $39 million for the project.
“Without various levels of government coming into play to help with these sorts of initiatives, unfortunately rental projects don’t get built,” Sawchyn said. “It’s easier, frankly, to deliver a market condominium or for-sale condos than a rental building.”
B.C. Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson attended the groundbreaking and said the PC Urban project is part of more than 20,000 new homes completed or underway throughout B.C as a result of provincial investments.
Mayor Colin Basran added that more than 1,500 purpose-built rental units were developed in Kelowna in the past year, “helping to shift the vacancy rate from 0.2 per cent to 1.9 per cent.”
“I know that’s still a tight market,” he said. “But we are making progress.”