A Vancouver company is itching to bring an “innovative” housing development to Oliver on the old Forbes property in town.
A recent open house in the legion hall saw Canadian Wetlands present the proposal to curious residents.
The company is partnering with Prestigious Properties to build approximately 100 units, which could represent a mix of row houses and town homes on 7.24 acres at 210 Co-op Avenue.
The property is zoned agricultural but is not in the Agricultural Land Reserve. There is currently an offer to purchase.
Senior project manager David Perehudoff said they were working on a housing project in Alberta, but that is currently on hold because of the ailing economy. So they came to the South Okanagan.
“We’re planning to build as many homes as we can sell at fair value,” he said, noting they are focusing on affordability.
Perehudoff said they really want to cater to young working families, individuals and retirees.
He pointed out the property would require a zoning change to reflect the town’s plan for higher density housing growth in this area.
Perehudoff said the company will be spending $30-$40 million in the community, building the units “as fast as we can sell them.”
He noted the property will undergo a geotechnical study and a complete environmental review. Some dying trees will have to be removed, but the company plans to keep as many as possible, he pointed out.
Jennifer Massig from AJM Engineering said they’re looking at smaller single-family homes and using the Okanagan River as a centerpiece.
“We’ll see what the public has to say and use that information to guide us,” she said.
“It’s not about putting in more, it’s about meeting a need.”
Affordable housing advocate Helen Overnes attended the open house and said her main concern is getting 100 units in the community as soon as possible. But she wasn’t quick to give this project the thumbs up. She did say the Forbes property is a good location for housing and is close to the senior’s centre.
But Overnes wants to ensure that the units will be affordable to low income people.
Perehudoff said they’re looking at an average price point of about $275,000, with a monthly mortgage payment of under $1,500.
Contractor Shayne Mathers said he believes the development will breathe new life into the community. But he, too, is concerned about affordability, noting a lot of people can’t afford to buy a home in today’s market.
“My kids are starting to look at homes and none of them can afford to buy.”
A neighbour of the Forbes property said the proposal is a “wonderful” plan. “We need housing in Oliver, especially in town.”
The woman, who didn’t want to give her name, said she hates seeing properties sit empty.
“I think the location is fabulous, I know people who would love to move here.”
Town Councillor Larry Schwartzenberger said he’s looking forward to seeing what the developers present to council. “I’m excited that someone has come to town looking to build housing. Housing for families is something we need.”
By Lyonel Doherty