Shovels have yet to leave a mark on the site of a furure affordable housing project set for central Abbotsford and to be operated by the Mamele’awt Qweesome Housing Society. Meanwhile, a similar MQHS project in Chiliwack is nearing completion. Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

Frustration as affordable housing project delayed and costs grow

Non-profit nears completion on Chilliwack project, but lack of permit delays Abbotsford construction

The sound of hammers and saws will soon be replaced by those of neighbours and families at a new six-storey affordable housing project in Chilliwack to be operated by the Mamele’awt Qweesome Housing Society (MQHS).

But at the site of another MQHS affordable housing project in Abbotsford, there is only silence as the construction of 60 homes await the approval of a building permit application submitted nine months ago.

The delays in getting the project going have significantly increased the cost of the project, while leaving the head of MQHS frustrated with the process. BC Housing now says that it has kicked in an extra $1.5 million to ensure that escalating construction costs and interest rate increases don’t have to be passed along to renters.

In April of 2017, BC Housing announced that it would be providing Mamele’awt Qweesome Housing Society with $10 million to build the project. The building will be located at the intersection of Fuller Street and Old Yale Road, just northeast of the the Ware Street/South Fraser Way junction. One floor of the six-storey building is set to provide housing for 10 teens living independently in the Autumn House Program managed by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

The project went to council in the fall of 2017, and rezoning of the properties was formally completed the following spring. But getting shovels in the ground has taken longer, with a required building permit holding up construction. An application was submitted in April of 2018, but has yet to be approved.

RELATED: Location selected for $10M Abbotsford affordable housing project

In Chilliwack, by contrast, MQHS’s $11-million 80-unit project went to council in October of 2016 and broke ground less than six months later. The city said it expedited the rezoning and approval process The building has risen steadily in the two years since construction begun and is anticipated to open in March.

Janice Silver, the CEO of MQHS, said in an email that “the process for receiving final building permit has been extremely slow and frustrating resulting in escalating costs.”

By contrast, in Chilliwack, Silver said “things went very smoothly and quickly and was an absolutely wonderful experience which is making our experience with the City of Abbotsford even more frustrating.”

RELATED: Groundbreaking and blessing in Chilliwack for 80-unit Urban Village

Funding for the Abbotsford project came from a $355-million affordable housing fund and units will be rented at below-market prices. A press release said the development would be “rooted in Indigenous culture” but that units would also be opened to non-Indigenous individuals and families.

BC Housing now says that it has kicked in an extra $1.5 million to ensure that escalating construction costs and interest rate increases don’t have to be passed along to renters.

The City of Abbotsford said it is working with MQHS to get the building permit issued.


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tolsen@abbynews.com

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An 80-unit affordable housing project in Chilliwack is nearing completion. Paul Henderson/Black Press

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