Sparwood adds much-needed affordable housing
The concept drawings show a snappy, modern four-storey apartment building. Its multi-peaked roof mimics the mountains above Sparwood and the earthy tones of its exterior nicely complement the surrounding trees and are reflective of the natural resources sector in Sparwood. And in addition to its great looks, it’s got a great purpose: to provide locals with homes that are within their budgets.
In Sparwood, “It can be really tricky to find housing,” says Katey Taylor, Executive Director of the Elk Valley Family Society, which is constructing the new building. “What is affordable isn’t necessarily safe to be living in—or it’s affordable but the utilities are ridiculously expensive.” Plus, many places are filled by workers who commute from elsewhere. “They take housing out of the market for those who are living in Sparwood.”
To tackle this issue, the society already owns a host of affordable rental spaces in Sparwood and Fernie—but there’s always a waitlist. With support from the Trust, it developed a plan for this 30-unit addition to its offerings and is now close to moving ahead with construction.
The mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments will be available to families, seniors and people with disabilities from the area. All units will be affordable; some will have the rent geared to the tenants’ incomes, while others will be at the lower end of what similar accommodations in the community might cost. For people with disabilities, the rent will be even less. Plus, the society is looking at options like heat pumps and is adding solar panels to make the building energy efficient and keep utility costs sustainable.
Construction began in summer 2022, with move-in targeted for fall 2023. Although many folks can’t plan what they’ll be doing that far in advance, “We have already started creating a waitlist for those who might be interested,” Taylor says. “People are definitely excited about it.”
Since 2002, the Trust has helped 30 Basin communities develop, build, upgrade or repair over 3,500 housing units, as people in the region have long stated that affordable housing is a priority. This has been done in partnership with groups like BC Housing, non-profit housing providers, First Nations and local colleges. In addition to providing funding for construction, the Trust supports non-profits and First Nations as they develop their proposals, plus helps them complete energy retrofits.