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Canada loaning $109M to help build Coquitlam residential, affordable rental housing tower

Expected to be completed by 2023 and operated by 43 Housing Society, money is also set to flow in from the provincial and municipal levels for the 308-unit building.

More rental housing options have been earmarked for Coquitlam in the years to come.

Today (July 21), the federal government announced it's providing a low-cost loan of $109 million for the construction of a 31-storey tower in the city's Burquitlam neighbourhood, aimed to be completed by spring 2023.

There will be a total of 308 units in the complex at 551 Emerson St., including 100 affordable rents — for at least 60 years from first occupancy — for those living on income assistance. Additionally, 31 will be accessible units and two are considered "adaptable" for those with mobility challenges.

Developed by Concert Properties, the affordable options will be operated through the 43 Housing Society/Share Family and Community Services, which is also set to receive a $3.85 million grant from the city of Coquitlam to ensure the units are ready for those who need them.

The municipal funding comes from the Affordable Housing Reserve Fund, said Mayor Richard Stewart at the press conference, noting that Coquitlam has 5,100 new units to add to the city's rental stock.

Mayor Stewart said the city didn't invest in rental housing for more than 50 years and "much of it has reached the end of its life," he said, while acknowledging the recent contributions from the federal and provincial governments.

43 Housing Society CEO Claire MacLean said Concert's rental building addresses the housing crunch. A sister non-profit with Share, 43 Housing Society operates more than 300 units of social housing in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam for families, people ages 55 and up and adults with disabilities who can live independently and who have limited incomes.

In PoCo, it is the housing provider for Cranberry Court, Tamarack Terrace and Willow Place.

Port Moody-Coquitlam MLA Rick Glumac also announced $10.6 million from BC Housing's Community Housing Fund that will allow 43 Housing Society to purchase 100 units in the new rental building, which is located east of the Burquitlam Plaza strip mall.

Glumac said housing affordability is a crisis in the Lower Mainland and is a common complaint for constituents: Some choose to leave the area to find cheaper accommodation while others are forced to pay higher rents, he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put more pressure on housing affordability with many residents priced out of the market, said Brian McCauley, president and CEO of Concert. Since its inception, the company has built 5,000 rental homes in Metro Vancouver with 3,000 units in the queue, he said, "many of them here in the city of Coquitlam."

Ahmed Hussen, Canada's minister of families, children and social development — who is also responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) — made the funding announcement at the development site. The feds' loan is coming through the CMHC's national Rental Construction Financing Initiative.

Hussen said the project is transit- and community-focused as the development is located a short walk from the Burquitlam SkyTrain station.

WHAT'S BEING BUILT?

Concert's massive construction project in Burquitlam is split on two sites. 

The Burquitlam Park rental building is:

  • 33 floors (two of which are mechanical)
  • 308 rental units (100 of which are non-market)
  • designed to be the most energy-efficient residential tower in Coquitlam (built to Step 3 of the BC Energy Step Code)

The Burquitlam Park strata building is:

  • 52 floors (two of which are mechanical)
  • 468 strata units

Andrew Merrill, Coquitlam's director of development services, told the Tri-City News that the building heights and unit counts changed for both buildings between public hearing in February 2018 and the fourth reading in December 2019, "as the designs were finalized and senior government funding was secured."

Once complete, the campus will also include:

  • YMCA Community Centre
  • Community police station
  • Park and other amenities

Meanwhile, for Concert's Whitgift Gardens project to the south — for six more towers — the city is expecting the following along Cottonwood Avenue: 

  • two 37-storey rental towers with about 654 units
  • four market condo towers at 24-, 25-, 43- and 48-levels high, with about 1,187 units plus another 132 market rental units for seniors

"As the market continues to evolve, Concert may choose to provide more rental units than just the one required building," Merrill told the Tri-City News.

 

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