The B.C. government has purchased the Victoria Towers apartment building gutted by fire last November and will renovate it to create 93 low-income housing apartment units for Prince George.
The province bought the building for $7.8 million and will invest an additional $3.2 million to complete renovations. BC Housing will manage the apartment complex, which will include bachelor, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. The renovations are expected to be completed by the end of March 2013.
Minister of Justice Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount, and Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie made the announcement at the Civic Centre with Prince George mayor Shari Green, before touring the building.
"This means families who have low income have another choice for affordable housing in Prince George," said Bond. "It is subsidized housing and I'm very pleased to say that because of the magnitude of this project, BC Housing will be directly managing the project, obviously partnering with our non-profits in Prince George.
"This is an opportunity for us to expand our affordable housing options. We did a good job in terms of using taxpayer dollars wisely. We wanted to make sure that building didn't stand there as a memory of a horrible event. It's going to rise up out of the ashes and we're going to be able to see families living in that complex once again."
The early-morning fire on Nov. 3 filled the building with toxic smoke and left 94 people homeless, 85 of whom required assistance from city and provincial social service agencies to find alternate accommodations.
Bond said the province bought the building for $1.8 million less than the listed price of $9.6 million. The deal will be funded as part of the $207 million in new capital investment announced by Premier Christy Clark at the Union of B.C. Municipalities Conference two weeks ago in Victoria.
Much of the building has been gutted already and units are ready to be rebuilt. The renovations are expected to create construction jobs in the city for the next five months. Bell said the cost of those renovations works out to about $35,000 per unit and the total cost breaks down to about $120,000 for each apartment, well below current construction costs, which he said were closer to $200,000 per unit.
With 93 units, Victoria Towers is the largest low-income housing project ever handed over to BC Housing. Regional director Malachy Tohill said the selection of tenants will be based on applications made to the province. Rents will be geared to levels of income.