Recently built Dakelh building in downtown Quesnel. File photo

Dakelh and Quesnel Community Housing Society plans to build low-income housing on Front Street

The four-storey building will have three floors of residences and one floor of commercial space

The Dakelh and Quesnel Community Housing Society (DQCHS) is hoping to develop a four-storey building on Front Street that would provide low-income housing and commercial space for a market focused on Indigenous art and crafts, a food program, offices and counselling.

Last week, Quesnel city council approved an application from the DQCHS for a development permit for the property at 726 Front St.

The society wants to develop a four-storey, 6,034.6-square-foot, wood-frame multi-residential building that is geared towards low-income Indigenous singles, couples and seniors at risk of homelessness. This development would have 27 units, including office space and resident amenity space. The building’s ground floor would have commercial space for a market focused on Indigenous art and crafts, a food program, office space, counselling space and multi-purpose space.

The DQCHS has applied for a parking variance for this development, lowering the parking stall requirement in the City’s zoning bylaw from 49 to 12. An additional three large-car stalls would be used for snow storage during the winter months, so the development would have 15 parking stalls in the summer.

“The proponent has told me if parking becomes a problem, they would find another way to store snow,” said Tanya Turner, the City’s director of development services.

The DQCHS says the reduction in residential parking requirements being requested has to do with the availability of public transportation, opportunities for active transportation such as walking and cycling, the proximity to community amenities and services, the fact that less parking stalls means more buildable area, and the fact that the units will be primarily single-occupant and all will be subsidized, and tenants will have shorter stays and will not have cars, according to the society’s rationale letter to the City.

“The use on-site will be primarily residential, specifically targeting single occupants at risk of homelessness,” writes the DQCHS.

“All the rents in this building will be set at a maximum of 30 per cent of tenant income, and additional tenant resources, such as a food program and other tenant supports, such as counselling, will be provided in order to support stable tenancies for homeless or homeless at-risk individuals.

“The food program serves DQCHS tenants on limited or fixed incomes and is currently operating out of the single-family home located on the site. This space will be replaced within the new building.”

Looking at other affordable housing or seniors housing projects in the city and their parking requirements and demand, the DQCHS shows that the number of parking stalls in use is well below the number of stalls.

The DQCHS says the commercial space will be serving primarily people served by DQCHS, and many people live within a five- to eight-minute walk of this development and will access the commercial space via foot, not vehicle, as they will have allocated parking available at their respective housing locations. Existing staff supporting the tenants in this building already have parking at the offices at Milestone Manor at 744 Front St., and the DQCHS says only two additional stalls will be required for a new tenant support worker and one flex stall for visiting maintenance or professional services to the building.

In late August, the City of Quesnel sent out notifications to 64 individuals within 30 metres of the subject property, and no feedback has been received.

Coun. Scott Elliott wondered if the project could be pushed back until the next steps are taken in the Housing Gap Analysis and Needs Report, since they just hired an individual.

“I don’t think there’s anything coming in the report that will show there isn’t this need,” said Mayor Bob Simpson, nothing this application predates the needs assessment work.

Turner told council the draft needs assessment does point out the need for this type of housing, and she said the DQCHS is working with BC Housing for some funding and is hoping to pour concrete in October before there is frost.

READ MORE: Two new affordable housing project celebrate official opening in Quesnel

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