Chris Beaton, executive director of the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre, proudly explains the details behind a new 25 unit affordable-housing development for youth, families, and elders from Nanaimo’s First Nation community.
“It’s the first affordable family housing facility built in this city in the last 20 years,” says Beaton. “That, in itself, makes it special. And it is also the first certified Passive House facility in Canada, [offering] affordable housing for families as well.”
How affordable? Bachelors and one bedrooms will rent for $375 a month, two bedroom townhomes for about $800, and three bedrooms for $900. But it’s not just the low rents that will help tenants make ends meet.
“We can offer somebody an affordable housing unit, but if they’re paying $250 or $300 a month in hydro, I’m not sure where that’s affordable any longer,” says Beaton
And that’s where the Passive Housing certification comes in. With an energy-use reduction of 85 percent in all units, even in the coldest winter months, Beaton says “your energy bill should not exceed $20 a month in a three bedroom townhouse here on this property.”
Beaton explains that there are four different elements that contribute to the passive housing certification.
“One is the triple glazing on the windows and doors; two is orientation, so that you’re gaining the energy from the sun on any day of the year; three is air-tight envelope, so you don’t let any of the heat that’s being created in the unit escape; four is incredible amount of insulation.”
“We have eight inches of insulation on the exterior of this building, not on the interior, and also, this building doesn’t sit on the ground. Even the foundation sits on top of eight inches of foam insulation,” says Beaton.
Prospective tenants must go through an application process. Carrie Daniels applied, was accepted, and moves in June 1st.
“I’m excited to move in here,” says Daniels. “It’s beautiful.”
She’s thankful for the affordability of her unit.
“If you have a lower rent,” says Daniels, “Then it’s not a worry for all the other things that you have to pay for. So I feel very fortunate to be here.”
The Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre has a small mortgage on the property. Beaton is grateful to B.C. Housing for a $4.6 million dollar capital grant, and the City of Nanaimo for providing the land.
“The demand for family housing units in this city is incredible,” says Beaton.
“Certainly when we talk about sustainability as part of our indigenous culture,” says Beaton, “It’s important to us to reflect that in everything that we do, including construction and operation of new facilities.”
The Passive Housing model is now standard for new construction in many European countries. Now, it’s also proudly reflected in Nanaimo.