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Affordable housing project could rise in downtown

BY Natascia Lypny, LEADER-POST DECEMBER 2, 2014

This parking lot at 11th Avenue and Lorne Street could become the site of a 15-storey affordable housing building. Photograph by: Bryan Schlosser, Leader-Post , Leader-Post

 

Lorne Street and 11th Avenue might one day be home to a towering mixed-use apartment building that sets an example for affordable housing in the city.

Namerind Housing Corporation has its sights on a parking lot on that corner for a 15-storey, two-tower complex that will feature 170 residential units. It will be the biggest project the local organization has ever taken on.

"We know that the need for affordable housing is growing. We know that in order for us to be able to develop and continue to support affordable housing, we need to do sustainable development," said Robert Byers, Namerind's CEO. "There is no money to be made in affordable development." The building's low rents will be supported through

commercial elements: A grocery store, a daycare, and four floors of office space. The building will also have 200 underground parking stalls.

Namerind prides itself on its social enterprise model. It adopted the role of business owner (it has a retail mall, pharmacy and landscaping operation to its name) to fund its affordable housing projects when federal and provincial funding agreements began to dry up.

With an $80-million estimated ticket price, though, social enterprise won't be enough to fund this project. Byers said Namerind has been working on the project for three years and is building potential partnerships. The city is doing its part to support this project as well.

At the Finance and Administration Committee meeting today, councillors will discuss a recommendation to sell the city-owned parking lot land directly to Namerind without offering it for sale publicly.

Mayor Michael Fougere said this is a common practice with affordable housing projects.

"This is an incredibly exciting project," said Fougere.

"This is exactly what we want to see for downtown to make a vibrant downtown."

Fougere said that not only is the project a "model" for affordable housing in Regina, it also fits with the city's vision for making downtown more densely populated and attracts people to the area. A grocery store downtown, Fougere said, has been long asked for, as well.

"We need this to be attractive to everybody," said Byers.

"We want to be part of the community."

The city is selling the property for $2.3 million. The project will also be eligible for municipal and Saskatchewan Housing Corporation incentives.

"I'm pretty excited about it, honestly, and nervous all at the same time," said Byers on Monday of the committee meeting. "We work hard at this stuff, and it's our goal to make a difference in this community."

If all goes according to plan, Byers envisions construction beginning in 2016.

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