Northern B.C.'s largest subsidized housing project is still a few months away from completion.
Renovations still have to be completed before the 12-storey Victoria Towers project on 20th Avenue will be ready to accept new tenants.
"There was a lot of cleaning out to do, and the building is all cleaned out of the junk we needed to get cleaned out and now we're full steam ahead with getting this done," said B.C. Housing regional director Malachy Tohill. "There's a lot of work to do in that building and we want to make sure that we keep it up to a good standard so it provides affordable housing in the future."
A fifth-floor fire in November 2011 left most of the building uninhabitable, forcing 94 tenants to look for new homes. In October the province announced it had purchased the building for $7.8 million with the promise it would invest an additional $3.2 million to complete renovations.
B.C. Housing will manage the apartment complex, which will include bachelor, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Renovations were originally expected to be completed by the end of March but Tohill said the building won't be ready for new tenants likely until the summer.
"I'll have a better idea of that when the consultant and the contractor give us some timelines and the full scope of work we need done," said Tohill. "It's got to be brought up to a pretty good standard for us. We've already been through the building and have a good idea of what we need done. I would hope we'll have it fully finished and have people moving in by the summer, but if we can get it done before that we will push to have that done. This is a top priority."
Tohill said the roof is in the process of being resurfaced. Carpets need to be replaced. Painting is needed. The safety of the elevators needs to be checked, the heating system will be upgraded and some appliances in the units have to be replaced.
"Some of the units we need to make handicap-accessible," said Tohill. "They didn't have those before so we need to ensure we have some available for people in wheelchairs or seniors in walkers."
B.C. Housing will work with non-profit service providers to find and process the building's prospective tenants. Rents will be based on income levels of the people who live there. Once it becomes operational, the upkeep on the building will be overseen by a B.C. Housing building manager and maintenance staff.
B.C. Housing works with groups like the Elizabeth Fry Society and Active Support Against Poverty to operate subsidized housing complexes such as the Friendship Lodge on Queensway, Elizabeth Fry Place on Sixth Avenue, and the Hart Haven seniors residence on the Hart Highway. The province also oversees Tse'Koo Huba Yoh, a 17-unit downtown residence for women operated by the Prince George Native Frendship Centre, and the Baldy Hughes Addiction Treatment Centre men's residential program near West Lake operated by B.C. New Hope Society.
"When you look at any of our buildings, they're all in good shape, we keep our grounds clean and the safety of out tenants is of utmost importance," said Tohill. "Making it fit into the community and making it look nice is super-important for the tenants and the whole community.
"We have 94 units and they're all empty, so let's make sure we do the best we can to met the needs of Prince George and that it has a positive impact."
Tohill said the complex will likely be given a new name and depending on input from social agencies could offer some programs for tenants such as an in-house day-care centre.
"A day-care right in the building would give single mothers or single fathers the opportunity to go and work -- it would be fantastic," said Tohill.