Saturday, April 20, 2024
April 20, 2024

Land bank assets change hands

While more details will come when the deal is finalized, Salt Spring Island Community Services (SSICS) will be assuming ownership of three affordable housing properties that were recently foreclosed on.

Properties owned by the Salt Spring Land Bank Society are the Brackett Springs affordable housing site at 584 Rainbow Rd., where existing homes were placed years ago, and homes with tenants at 129 Dean Rd. and 384 Fulford-Ganges Rd. 

SSICS has an arrangement with Vancity Credit Union, the mortgage holder on the properties, as well as financing in order. “We will be assuming the debt that the land bank society had with them, and we’re going to see that [purchase] closing probably in the next couple of weeks,” said SSICS executive director Rob Grant last week.

Some people are living in the Dean and Fulford-Ganges Road properties and their tenancies will be secure, Grant confirmed, with no evictions happening.

“We’re not going to do anything to change anyone’s living situation. We’re not going to be moving any new people in yet because we have to do some major renovations of both of the properties,” he said. The renovations will likely start with the house on Dean Road with hundreds of thousands of dollars and several months of work ahead on the two properties. There may be some disruption for tenants, Grant said, yet a strategy is in place to keep everyone housed. 

“It’s just been a lot of work to get there . . . and there was a lot of debt owed on that property too. So we’re taking out a very sizeable mortgage to make this work,” Grant said. Details of the property acquisitions’ cost will be shared when the deal is finalized, he confirmed.

Community Services is “exploring development opportunities” on the Rainbow Road site, with Grant promising more information soon about what this will look like. “We’re acquiring all three knowing that there’s two properties that can be used for housing immediately, and then the third we’re just exploring,” he said. 

As detailed in past Driftwood reporting, the land bank society had originally planned to put 15 units of affordable housing on the 7.75-acre (3.14-hectare) rural-zoned Rainbow Road site, donated to the society by Herbert Brackett. The society submitted its rezoning application in 2008, with approval for up to 10 units coming from the Islands Trust in 2010 in the form of a covenant and a housing agreement administered by the Capital Regional District (CRD).

The project faced delays and $182,000 in grant funding from the CRD was withdrawn in 2015. A CRD staff report noted the project had also acquired $500,000 in grant funding from BC Housing and a $440,000 loan from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Some of the delays came from the project’s plans to use recycled homes from on and off-island, which were to be renovated largely by volunteer labour and recycled materials and then rented out at affordable rates. In 2013 concern arose around construction delays and issues with documentation, which led to BC Housing and CMHC pulling out of the deal. The same CRD report noted the BC Housing grant was largely repaid and CMHC had agreed to write off the loan. 

The society found a new funder in Vancity, yet in 2019 notice was placed on the title of the property amidst expired building permits and the seven homes moved onto the property not renovated to the point of occupancy. A site visit by a CRD building inspector found that one of the buildings appeared to be occupied illegally, and most of the other buildings appeared to be derelict.

In 2018 the property was listed for $1.5 million for three months. The listing was requested by Vancity, land bank society founder Neddy Harris told the Driftwood.

Vancity was in the process of foreclosing on the three properties in late December of 2021, Salt Spring’s CRD director Gary Holman confirmed.

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  1. Fantastic news! I’ve been hoping to see some action at those properties for years. Hopefully there will be lots of affordable housing to come in the not-too-distant future. Well done, SSICS!


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