Co-op housing planned for Fort St. James

Fort St. James may soon see some new co-op housing.

Peter Valk

Fort St. James is one step closer to welcoming new co-op housing.

The district anonymously granted Peter Valk, chair of the Fort St. James Co-op Housing project, a letter of support during this months council meeting on Wednesday, July 16. His plan is to submit the letter to the Northern Development Initiative program by August 8 for a chance at acquiring another $10,000 for the Fort St. James Co-op Housing project.

“Once we have the properties tied down and approved we can move forward as planned, but first we have to get the properties assed to know if they are even big enough to hold it and, are there services in place,” said Mr. Valk.

The Fort St. James Co-op Housing society was started in 2013 but was incorporated in February of this year with a vision of creating quality, affordable housing for residents in the District of Fort St. James and the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako. Support came in the company of 116 committed internal members which was more than double the expected amount. Three more members have since signed up and many community members, including the Chamber of Commerce and the city’s district office, immediately jumped on board after hearing what the society planned to do. The Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation also recognized the need and granted the society $10,000 at the beginning of the year after being sent letters of support.

Although the society is entirely volunteer run, the project has remained moderately on schedule and is now moving into the assessment stages. There are four properties being looked at throughout Fort St. James as possible homes for the predicted apartment-style housing co-ops. The rough footprint for each three-storey building is about 30 units offering both one and two bedrooms. While the housing will be open to everyone, the focus remains on affordability for seniors and low income, said Mr.Valk.

The cost of services that still need to be assessed include sewers, power and water. Other big costs still needing to be assessed include parking and accessing the properties by roadway.

The process of initiating an assessment contract has begun and based on an interim budget it will cost about $20,000 for the property assessment, feasibility and business plan, said Mr. Valk.

“It doesn’t happen overnight but after all this we will soon know if it’s feasible,” said Mr. Valk.