By Steve Hubrecht

The Village of Canal Flats is embarking on one of its most ambitious municipal projects in some time. It is purchasing land near the municipally run Canal Flats Daycare centre, on which it will build a new housing project.

The $817,000 the village recently received from the one-time provincial Growing Communities Fund will help pay for the project. A new nonprofit group — the Canal Flats Attainable Housing and Childcare Society — has been formed to help steer these efforts. 

The society will also use a $162,000 provincial Childcare Spaces Fund to complete the final phases of the daycare.

“This is very exciting,” Canal Flats Chief Administrative Officer Richard Wayken told the Pioneer. “It’s great to have momentum as a village, and to have a council that is embarking on change and making things happen.”

The land being purchased is three acres (1.2 hectares) at the corner of Burns Avenue and Grainger Road, adjacent to the daycare. The housing project will include 12 units of affordable housing as well as six commercial bays (in a mixed-use, live-work format). There will be a seniors element to the housing project as well.

Wayken said the need for attainable housing and childcare services for families and individuals in Canal Flats is urgent and must be addressed as soon as possible. This project will help to that end, he noted, adding it will also help address the issue of people leaving Canal Flats as they get older.

“Seniors’ housing as well as a ‘stay home longer’ program, which will help seniors remain in their homes for as long as possible, is a critical piece for Canal Flats,” Wayken stated. “Within the next four years, 50 per cent of the population of Canal Flats will be over the age of 55. We have a problem with seniors leaving our community. Hopefully this will help address that.”

The seniors’ housing will include a range of options to support seniors at different stages of life, including accessible units, supportive services, and a community space for social activities and events. 

The ‘stay home longer’ program will offer resources and support to help seniors live independently in their own homes, including assistance with home maintenance, modifications, transportation, and social connections.

“This is about more than just this one project, even though it is a big project,” said Wayken. “This is about community building. We can help to strengthen our community and create a brighter future for all.”

Wayken said the Canal Flats Attainable Housing and Childcare Society was formed to deal with both issues, rather than create two different nonprofit groups to each deal with one of those issues. That’s because small communities, such as Canal Flats, often struggle with ‘volunteer capacity’ — in other words, there is a small population, quite a lot of volunteer and nonprofit work to be done, and sometimes not quite enough volunteers to go around (at least not without overloading those volunteers to the point of burnout). 

Having one society to address both issues will be more efficient in that regard, he outlined.

The housing/childcare society will work closely with the Columbia Valley Housing Society, but the village wanted its own nonprofit “to address its own unique needs,” added Wayken.

Concept designs for the housing project will be complete soon. “I expect services (water and sewer, etc.) to go in this fall, and then construction to begin next spring.”

Most of the 12 affordable housing units should be completed by fall 2024, he pointed out.