E Fry housing project gets green light

The Prince George Elizabeth Fry Society's quest to build a social housing complex next to Studio 2880 on 15th Avenue was advanced a step Thursday when it was among a dozen across B.C. for which the provincial government gave the go-ahead.

PGEFS executive director Kathi Heim said final costs are still being nailed down but a Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing spokesperson said $15.6 million has been approved for the project. It will come out of Building B.C.: Women's Transition Fund through which $734 million over 10 years has been earmarked for 1,500 units of such housing.

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The hope is to start construction by spring next year on an 18-bed transition house, 16 units of second-stage housing and 21 townhouses, all directed at women and children, "now that we got approval to start going for the development permits and building permits."

Heim said it will provide the "full continuum" of housing for women and children in need of stable,safe and supported places to stay. Transitional or "immediate crisis" housing typically lasts about 30 days while second-stage housing is the next step and is usually good for one to two years. The townhouses can be permanent with monthly rent based on the client's ability to pay.

"The purpose of this housing is to take barriers away from women so that they aren't going to be challenged to find housing so it will be quite affordable," Heim said.

City council approved rezoning of the site along the 2700 and 2800 block of 15th Avenue in March 2017 about four months after Elizabeth Fry received $1.6 million from the provincial government to help get the project off the ground.

"It's been about two years and it's morphed and it's changed and it's been around the block a few times and we weren't even expecting to get announced just yet so this was quite a surprise to us so it is very welcome and we're just so appreciative," Heim said. "It's great for Prince George."

Studio 2880 is in the process of moving to the old Bank of Montreal building at Third Avenue and Quebec Street downtown, which it will share with the Prince George Farmers' Market.

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