A proposal for new housing received a warm welcome from the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee (LTC) last week, despite the plan being in what could be described as the “earliest exploratory stages,” according to a representative for the society that owns the land.
The Gulf Islands Seniors Residence Association (GISRA) is contemplating a change of use for its property on Kings Lane, according to GISRA executive director Harry Barnes, who said the notion was being shared with the LTC at an early stage of development to gauge that body’s support of the concept — and in hopes of a letter to that effect being created that GISRA could share with potential funding partners.
The parcel at 154 Kings Lane had previously been envisioned for an expansion of GISRA’s successful congregate living model already in place at Meadowbrook, Barnes said, but the demand for such a project — and its economic viability, given construction costs for what would mostly be large, higher-priced single-senior accommodations — had come into question over the past few years.
“When you get right down to it, building bigger units in today’s market, for the sort of rents that you can reasonably bring in, is just not commercially viable,” said Barnes. “So we’re left with a rather interesting situation in a housing crisis — having a prime piece of real estate right in walking distance of all the services, with proven wells, already with a development permit for 50 units.”
Salt Spring’s LTC jumped at the opportunity to provide a broad letter of support, while reserving judgement on specifics until GISRA decided what it thought the best use for the property would be; trustees passed resolutions requesting staff draft the letter for their signature, as well as work with GISRA to review the existing zoning and permits on the property’s title and report back.
“I’m so glad the board is supporting making this change,” said trustee Laura Patrick at the Oct. 12 LTC meeting. “This is a big win for them, and I think it’s going to be a healthier project. It’s exciting.”
Barnes said with the preliminary support, GISRA would continue to explore its options — ensuring its own financial wellbeing, while hopefully offering something of value to Salt Spring.
“Our board is adamant that it should be for the community, for affordable housing or whatever the need is,” said Barnes. “Whatever is the best fit for the community.”