Oak Bay United Church holds a series of meetings with their neighbours this week regarding their proposed affordable housing project. The meetings are intended to gain input from those living close by that will be directed affected by the project.
“We’re meeting with neighbours right now to get their input on what other services they would like to see, where they think the building should be, whether they prefer height and more green space or low and not as much green space,” says Oak Bay United Church board chair Cheryl Thomas.
Once the consultation sessions conclude this week, the architects and finance people will be working to develop at least three concept designs and there will be future feedback sessions and further adjustments made to the design before submitting a re-zoning application to Oak Bay council.
The church is trying to improve its public engagement process after getting push back from the Oak Bay community about the manner in which it was moving forward with its proposed affordable housing project at Mitchell and Granite streets.
The meetings are described as 'input' sessions - prior to embarking on design options. The church representative mentioned they are setting up an online opportunity to share ideas.— Nils Jensen (@MayorNils) November 8, 2017
The development became a necessary reality for the church after struggling financially for many years. They are working on an income generating option that aligns with their values, alleviates their financial strain, and brings value to the community. Affordable housing seems the obvious choice.
While BC Housing is providing the financing for the project, they are not involved in the design and the project is not subsidized housing.
“Our vision is to use our church property to create rental housing that will complement the community that is already here. This is not subsidized housing and not support housing for people who are in vulnerable populations,” Oak Bay United Church Rev. Michelle Slater told council in September.
To run the project, the church created a Property Development Committee which includes Cheryl Thomas, Mike McAuley, Russ Raine, and Dustin Demontigny.
They also asked some professionals with more industry experience to sit on the committee with them. The four advisors who volunteer to give expert advise and ask the technical questions of the project team are Chris Causton, Wayne Ford, Andrew Turner, and Jack Basey.
“We may not know all there is to know about developing property and we’ve got an obligation to the congregation so we went out and got the help we needed,” says Thomas.
In terms of timeline, the third neighborhood meeting is happening tonight at 7 p.m. The final meeting will be Sunday at 2 p.m. Then the architect will draw up plans and the church is hoping to get their re-zoning application to the municipality by spring. There will be more public hearings at that stage.