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Update: Second downtown housing project going ahead next year

Construction of a second, roughly 50-unit housing complex, is expected to begin in summer 2023, BC Housing says.
The first phase of a three-phase, 150-unit housing project on First Avenue is seen in a Citizen file photo.

The second of three planned housing facilities at 808 and 855 First Avenue is moving ahead, according to a report going before city council on Sept. 21.

The first, 50-unit housing facility, operated by Connective, opened in June. Connective provides residents with on-site staff and support services, including meal programs, life, and employment skills training, health and wellness supports, and opportunities for volunteer work.

“In late August of 2022, BC Housing advised that a funding allocation had been approved to advance the second stage of development that will consist of 50 units of supported housing and a health centre,” city manager Walter Babicz wrote in the report. “Funding will enable engagement of an architect to advance the design of the centre and procurement of a Construction Manager.”

The multi-phase housing facility is located on the former site of NR Motors.

“To address recommendations in the 2017 Downtown Prince George Health Services Review, Northern Health, in partnership with other health service agencies, will provide primary care, harm reduction, as well as specialized mental health and substance-use services in the health care space,” Babicz wrote. “BC Housing continues to highlight the partners’ request for funding to complete the third and final project stage, featuring 50 units of affordable rental housing for Indigenous individuals and an additional 10,000 square feet of health care space.”

The city has continued to advocate for funding and construction of the final phase of the project, he added.

In an email on Friday, a spokesperson for BC Housing said the Connective housing project located, while located on the same site, is not part of the First Avenue Integrated Health and Housing Project. The Connective housing project was built as part of B.C.'s 10-year, $7 billion housing plan, which has funded more than 340 new homes in Prince George since 2017.

The two-phase First Avenue Integrated Health and Housing Project will include 52 additional supportive homes, 50 additional units of housing and a health care clinic operated by Northern Health.

"Phases 1 and 2 of the project are currently in the development stage and the project budgets are still being finalized. As with any project, construction timelines are subject to various factors including availability of labour, materials, weather and necessary permits," the spokesperson said in an email. "Phase 1 is expected to start construction in the summer of 2023, with completion anticipated in the fall of 2024. We will share more details about the project timeline as the development progresses."

BC Housing has allocated $1.5 million to the project to design the project and prepare it to be ready to issue for tender, Babicz told city council on Sept. 21. The project is a partnership between the city, BC Housing and Northern Health, he added, with the city providing the site and BC Housing and Northern Health providing the services.

"We believe this is one of the most significant and innovative housing projects in the province," Babicz said. "The partners are adding affordable housing integrated with health care services to serve Prince George's most vulnerable population and improve the community, particularly the city's downtown area."

Coun. Brian Skaun said projects like this take a lot of behind-the-scenes work and advocacy to bring to fruition.

"Administration and council have worked hard to get some of these spaces, and it paying off."