History of the Fernie Family Housing Society
1996 A need was identified by the Fernie Women’s Centre (FWC) for housing for women and children fleeing domestic violence in the Elk Valley. An application was submitted to BC Housing to fund the construction of Second Stage Housing. The City of Fernie was a key partner of the project. The City purchased two vacant city lots and leased them to FWC for 60 years at no cost and waived all Development Cost charges (DCC).
In the spring of 1998 Chrysalis House was opened.
1998 The FWC transferred operation of Chrysalis House to the Elk Valley Family Society (EVFS), another Society under their leadership, because of conflicts with BC Housing constitutional requirements. Chrysalis House offered 11 units of Rent Geared (RGI) to Income housing for women and their children fleeing domestic violence.
1999 The Elk Valley Society for Community Living (EVSCL) became concerned by reports from Self-Advocates (adults with mental challenges) that affordable housing in Fernie was substandard, and landlords were not responding to renters' concerns. The Society's initial approach was to the City to see if there was land available within the City boundaries with development potential. A meeting was then organized with the City, the Fernie Women's Centre and E.K. Mental Health Society representatives. The result of this meeting was an agreement between the EVSCL and the EVFS to investigate the possibility of developing more affordable housing for people with disabilities, seniors and low-income families. The EVSCL wanted adequate housing for people with disabilities, the EVFS recognized a need for housing for women and children graduating from Second Stage Housing, and both groups saw the need for housing for seniors and for people on fixed incomes as the Fernie tourism boom saw a drastic rise in the cost of housing and rental accommodation. On behalf of both societies EVFS successfully applied to BC Housing, again with the support of the City of Fernie, to create 22 Rent Geared to Income(RGI) and 10 Low End of Market (LEM) rental units. A mix of 1, 2, 3 and 4-bedroom townhouse units were created on land leased from the City of Fernie at no cost. In addition, the DCC’s were waived.
2000 Out of concern for how the creation of 10 LEM units would impact the charitable status of EVFS, a new nonprofit society, the Fernie Family Housing Society (FFHS), was created to complete the construction of the 32-unit townhouse complex and manage operations.
2001 New Horizon Village was opened on April 1st, offering low income housing with RGI and LEM units to families, seniors, and people with disabilities.
2003 Through the work at Chrysalis House and New Horizon Village, it was noted that there was an increasing need for more affordable and accessible housing for seniors and people with disabilities. The Fernie Affordable Housing Partnership (FAHP) was formed to examine the need and explore solutions. Five societies, including FFHS, EVFS, EVSCL, FWC, Columbia Basin Family Resource Society and the City of Fernie, came together to form a partnership. The partnership applied for SEED funding from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to conduct a Needs Assessment of seniors in the Fernie area regarding their housing and support needs. Volunteers conducted the survey of local seniors. Seniors indicated that access to accessible and affordable housing was critical to keeping them in our community.
2004 Government funding for housing was changing. The ability to apply for funding from one funding source, which historically had been BC Housing, was no longer an option. The FAHP selected FFHS to take the lead role in securing Tom Uphill Memorial Home (TUMH), a site identified as best suited to create approximately 24 units of congregate type housing. FFHS, with the support of the FAHP and other community groups, explored options for securing the building from the Interior Health Authority (IHA). Leasing the building was not considered financially viable. As part of IHA’s process for decommissioning the TUMH, the property was first offered for sale to the City of Fernie for $1.4 million. The City waived its right of first refusal to allow FFHS to make an offer. FFHS offered $1.00 to purchase the TUMH. IHA responded that they would sell us the property for $10.00 if the debt of $800,000 on the property was first paid off. Further research by FFHS revealed that there was no debt on the property as the $800,000 on record was an accounting function for prepaid capital advancements for maintenance and upgrades that had already been done on the property.
2005 With the support of the partnership, local groups, and MLA Bill Bennett, FFHS took ownership of the TUMH for $10.00. Asizable bequest of $125,000 from the Evans family of Fernie was transferred to FFHS with the condition that the name of Tom Uphill remained attached to the building. Local contractors and architect conducted a preliminary feasibility study, which strengthened our application to BC Housing and CMHC for Proposal Development funding to conduct a full feasibility study. With positive results from the study, BC Housing and CMHC along with several smaller funding partners funded the majority of the renovations costs. The City of Fernie supported the redevelopment through the waiving of property taxes and building permit fees.
2006 The redeveloped Tom Uphill Manor (TUM) was opened on October 1st. It provided 24 standard units and 3 transitional units for seniors and people with disabilities. A key component of the program was the evening meal and optional housekeeping and laundry service which provided some of the support needed to allow seniors to age in place.
2007 An Affordable Housing Strategy was commissioned by the City of Fernie to examine affordable housing in Fernie. Low-income singles, seniors and families were identified as the sectors most in need of affordable housing.
2008 There was increasing pressure by some private sector owners of existing multifamily housing developments to redevelop their buildings, possibly removing some units from the community’s affordable housing stock. FFHS’s attempts to secure government funding to create new affordable units were unsuccessful.
2009 BC Housing announced funding available for the creation of affordable housing for seniors and people with disabilities under the Federal Infrastructure Stimulus Program with the condition that construction had to be completed within two years. Parastone Developments Ltd proposed the creation of a 45-unit affordable housing development based on the findings of the Affordable Housing Strategy and their need to keep their employees working during the downturn in the economy. Parastone worked with BC Housing, the City, FFHS and several other funding partners to create 33 two-bedroom units and 12 one-bedroom units designated as affordable/attainable housing. The City of Fernie supported the development just as they had supported the non-profit sector in the past.
2010 Veneto was opened on November 1st. 24 two-bedroom units to be sold by Parastone as Affordable Homeownership units. 12 one-bedroom units were purchased by BC Housing for seniors and people with disabilities as RGI (rent geared to income) units. The units were to be self-supporting through rents as there was no rent subsidy from BC Housing. 9 two-bedroom units were held by the developer for Low End Market (LEM) rental for 10 years. With funding from the Real Estate Foundation FFHS purchased a two-bedroom ground floor rental unit to protect it beyond the 10-year covenant. FFHS contracted with BC Housing to manage their 12 one-bedroom units. Veneto Place Properties Ltd. employed FFHS staff to manage their 8 units, and the Veneto Place Strata until a licensed Property Manager was hired in 2012.
2013 BC Housing purchased an additional 12 2-bedroom units to be managed by EVFS. It was decided that FFHS should relinquish its management of the initial 12 one-bedroom BC Housing units. It was felt that the lack of rent subsidies, and the rapidly increasing strata fees were making the units less affordable for those in greatest need. EVFS assumed management of the 24 BC Housing units.
2017 Government funding was changing again and FFHS applied for funding for a 35-unit apartment complex and 14 townhouses. The announcement was made in the summer of 2018 that FFHS was going to be given the go ahead to begin both projects. As of today, the FFHS is working diligently with their partners BC Housing, CMHC and CBT to complete this project.