Proposed Revelstoke rental complex is first to use B.C. program

A preliminary rendering shows a proposed rental complex at 420 Downie Street in Revelstoke. The site, which is set to be built on a vacant lot, is the first to use a provincial program that turns underused public land into housing. (B.C. Housing - image credit)
A preliminary rendering shows a proposed rental complex at 420 Downie Street in Revelstoke. The site, which is set to be built on a vacant lot, is the first to use a provincial program that turns underused public land into housing. (B.C. Housing - image credit)

Trails cut through overgrown grass in a 1.20-hectare (2.98-acre) vacant field in the centre of Revelstoke that once housed a school playing field.

"You can see some of the remnants of the school site there, there's a fence from the baseball diamond," said Taha Attiah, the manager of the Revelstoke Community Housing Society.

Attiah says the lot, 420 Downie Street, is going to be a big worksite in a year.

There will be a three-building complex developed on the former school field, comprising 164 rental units, and a space for child care, starting to be completed as early as 2027.

Taha Attiah, the manager of the Revelstoke Community Housing Society, says funding for the complex comes mostly from a provincial grant with the remaining costs to be covered by rents.
Taha Attiah, the manager of the Revelstoke Community Housing Society, says funding for the complex comes mostly from a provincial grant with the remaining costs to be covered by rents.

Taha Attiah, the manager of the Revelstoke Community Housing Society, says funding for the complex comes mostly from a provincial grant with the remaining costs to be covered by rents. (Meagan Deuling/CBC)

The Downie Street housing complex is the first development to take place under B.C.'s redevelopment program, a strategy to use provincially owned assets — like vacant lots or under-used buildings — to develop more housing units.

B.C. Housing bought the lot from the Ministry of Education, and is partnering with the Revelstoke Community Housing Society to manage the development and operation of the apartments.

"It's an exciting announcement," Attiah says. "But it's been awaited by Revelstoke for a while now."

The housing crisis that impacts every part of the country is acute in the booming ski resort town, where the market is struggling to keep up with demand.

420 Downie Street, a 2.98-acre vacant lot, is a former school field, which will be redeveloped to house three building complexes, comprising of 164 rental units and a space for child care by as early as 2027.
420 Downie Street, a 2.98-acre vacant lot, is a former school field, which will be redeveloped to house three building complexes, comprising of 164 rental units and a space for child care by as early as 2027.

420 Downie Street, a vacant lot, is a former school field. It will be redeveloped to house three building complexes, comprising 164 rental units and a space for child care as early as 2027. (Meagan Deuling/CBC)

"Every sector is screaming for housing," says Evan Parliament, manager of the city of Revelstoke.

That includes the city itself. The only way the municipality can consider hiring external candidates is by providing them with housing.

As well as the private sector, Parliament says RCMP, the school district, Interior Health and the fire department struggle to recruit candidates because of a lack of affordable housing.

"This unit on Downie Street cannot be built fast enough," says Parliament.

B.C. Housing put out a request for proposal, seeking a partner to run the development. The Revelstoke Community Housing Society was the successful applicant.

The city prioritized building the capacity of the society, so there would be a local entity available to partner with B.C. Housing and other organizations in such developments.

"Their success is our success," Parliament says.

The city has given the society over $200,000 in funding, it writes letters of support and fast-tracks development permits, among other things.

Money to build the complex comes mostly from a provincial grant. The remaining cost will be covered by rents, Attiah says.

Since it's non-market housing, the rental costs won't increase with the property values around it, which Attiah says is long-term value in a town where the housing market has grown exponentially since 2021.

The Revelstoke Community Housing Society manages this 24-unit, non-market rental housing complex. The society currently manages three non-market rental complexes in town, totaling in 32 units.
The Revelstoke Community Housing Society manages this 24-unit, non-market rental housing complex. The society currently manages three non-market rental complexes in town, totaling in 32 units.

The Revelstoke Community Housing Society manages this 24-unit, non-market rental housing complex. The society currently manages three non-market rental complexes in town, totaling in 32 units. (Meagan Deuling/CBC)

The housing society currently manages three non-market rental complexes in town, totalling 32 units. With 420 Downie Street, it will manage almost 200 units.

The long-term aim of the city, Parliament says, is for the society to be self-sufficient.

The development permit for the first phase of the building will go before city council on July 9.