During Tuesday's Merritt City Council meeting, Anhart Community housing society made their first presentation to council on their plans for a four-acre property on DeWolf way.
CFO Crystal Wiebe addressed council to explain Anhart’s goal for not only Merritt but broader.
“We have an incredibly lofty goal of 20,000 units over the next 10 years. And really our goal is to provide housing to people that are at risk of homelessness or to people in need of affordable housing with a focus on seniors,” said Wiebe. “We call it workforce housing but really it’s for people on a low income that need affordable housing and I think we can all agree there is a real need for that.”
The project in Merritt is currently slated as a 76-unit 2 building development, however it should be noted it is still very early in the process.
“Across the country we are seeing a real definite cry for affordable housing for people who can no longer make ends meat,” Wiebe told council. “We see that there is a continuum of housing that starts in shelters and ends in people that own in million-dollar homes. What we’re finding more and more as the market is becoming less and less affordable, is that people are constantly getting pushed down the spectrum. So, if we can fill in gap that seems to be missing, we can stop this downward flow and bring people up into more sustainability.”
After conducting market research in Merritt, Anhart's initial plan is to have 12 studios, 26 one-bedrooms, 32 two-bedrooms and six three-bedrooms. Though it should be noted that the project is still at a very early stage and numbers could change.
Anhart has projects across BC, Canada and the world, so Wiebe spoke to why they chose Merritt.
“We are seeing that the small communities have kind of been abandoned. Really there is a real big gap in the affordable housing, and we haven’t seen in the past two or three decades there’s been much attention to this market. So, we know the need is there. And we have researched that as of 2019 there is a zero-vacancy rate, so that’s why we have chosen Merritt,” said Wiebe.
Anhart feels like it can build development abiding by the current by-laws, however some help from Council could help the project.
“If we want to deepen the affordability of it and council was open to perhaps some relaxations or some additional density it would make the project more affordable in the end,” said Wiebe.
Councillor Adam Etchart asked Wiebe about a possible timeline for the project.
“We are just now getting the funds to get the pre-development going. We are planning in the next few months to get our preliminary drawings, so that we could submit some kind of application within five or six months,” stated Wiebe.
Councillor Tony Luck spoke to why he supports the project.
“I really like the presentation. The thing I like is its philanthropic, it’s outside the community. You’re not coming here and asking for a bunch of money, it’s a group of individuals that have built up some wealth over their time and now they want to give back to the community. We will look at it closely and try to support this the best way we can,” said Councillor Luck.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt