The inventory of affordable rental units is about to get a major boost in the Friendly City.
In April, Blanchard Holdings Inc. president Jonathan Blanchard intends to begin construction of a 28-unit affordable housing rental project on the zero block of Maple Street. On Wednesday he told the Times-Herald the South Hill project should be complete by December, he hopes.
“This will benefit the city,” he said, adding the rental units would come with either two bedrooms or three bedrooms, and the tenants are expected to be low- to- moderate-income families.
“It will be an instant boost to the rental supply.”
According to Blanchard, there has not been a similar project in Moose Jaw in over 20 years. Depending on the success of this year’s affordable housing project, he said he might consider similar projects locally in the future as well.
He said his development is made possible largely due to access to government programs to support affordable housing project capital costs. Currently he is still finalizing a deal with Sask. Housing for funding.
One of the expenses Blanchard has had to assume with the project is paving the zero block of Maple Street. However, after much deliberation the City of Moose Jaw has agreed to offer some support in the form of covering a portion of paving costs.
During Tuesday’s regular council meeting, council passed a motion to remove the requirement on Blanchard Holdings Inc. to provide sidewalks on the zero block of Maple Street East.
Further, the majority of council approved the following amendment to that motion: “That the City of Moose Jaw contribute $47,500 towards the paving of the zero block of Maple Street East, and further that the source of funds be the land development fund.”
Mayor Glenn Hagel said it strikes him as appropriate for the city to approach the Blanchard project as an affordable housing project.
“I want to acknowledge that Mr. Blanchard is working in partnership with the province through Sask. Housing, and Sask. Housing is a very important capital partner in the project to enable the construction of the 28 affordable housing units,” he said, noting the city earned $32,000 on the project through the sale of a strip of land Blanchard required for the project.
Councillors Brian Swanson and Dawn Luhning did not vote in favour of the amendment. Swanson noted a motion passed in March 2011 allowing for rezoning of Blanchard’s property necessary for development also stated the owner would be responsible for paving the adjacent roadway.
The total cost of the paving is $178,000, but with this week’s council decision Blanchard is only paying $100,000.
Blanchard said he believes there are examples of shabby rental suites some Moose Javians are forced to live in simply because they are too poor to leave. He said if those landlords lose tenants to his new development once it is complete, then likely those landlords might be forced to improve their properties.
“I think the spinoffs are great in that way too.”
Blanchard said he would be managing his South Hill property and, once the project is underway, he would make public how people could apply to live in one of the units.
Speaking strictly about aesthetics, Blanchard said the view of downtown from the site of the future apartment complex is actually quite spectacular and the location is ideal too, as it gives tenants easy walking access to downtown, Wakamow Valley and the Yara Community Gardens.
“It’s great for the neighbourhood.”
With a new affordable housing rental project coming to South Hill, Moose Jaw Housing Authority (MJHA) operations manager Jim Cannon said he is quite pleased. Any new rental units is happy news, he said, especially if it’s for low- to- moderate-income Moose Javians.
“That’s where the majority of the pressure is,” Cannon told the Times-Herald on Wednesday. He said it’s nice to see a private developer, Blanchard Holdings Inc. president Jonathan Blanchard, work with government funding programs to improve the number of affordable housing options locally.
Cannon said MJHA’s waiting list is “swelling” and the vacancy rate is near zero.
“At this time, we’re full,” he said, adding he hopes other developers will look at Blanchard’s example and pursue options to create new affordable rental properties for low- to- moderate-income residents, taking advantage of government programs aimed at helping cover some of the capital costs.