Merritt’s seniors will soon have a new housing option downtown thanks to a $4 million dollar investment from the provincial government and a non-profit’s commitment to build affordable homes in town.

Fresh off the heels of completing their supportive housing complex dubbed ‘Juniper House,’ ASK Wellness Society announced plans to build another affordable housing complex right next door, in partnership with the provincial government.

The site of the proposed development. (Photo courtesy of BC Housing).

“Seniors in Merritt are an important part of the community and the development of this housing project showcases our commitment to helping meet the affordable housing needs of Merritt,” said Bob Hughes, ASK Wellness Society’s executive director.

Members of ASK Wellness were joined by Housing Minister Selina Robinson and mayor Linda Brown at Juniper House on March 22 to unveil plans for the project.

The three-storey building will include studio, one-bedroom and accessible apartments. The price of each unit will be relative to the tenant’s income.

“Whether it is people who are low-income or moderate income, this is the place to be in my mind — it has everything you could possibly want.” – Bob Hughes

Robinson said there is a great need for senior’s housing in Merritt, as many seniors are forced to choose between living in unaffordable homes or leaving their family, friends and communities.

“So they were either staying too long in housing that was not appropriate for them or they were forced to move somewhere else,” Robinson said.

“We are thrilled to see additional provincial funding to address what is a critical housing need in our community; affordable homes for seniors,” said Brown.

The project is in the design stage and construction is expected to begin in spring 2020.

“As soon as we can move through the design phase and get the support of the city for our development permit we will get rolling,” said Hughes. “We are going to seize the opportunity because the money is in the government right now.”

Before the 30-unit Juniper House project came to fruition last year, it had been more than two decades since an affordable project was built in Merritt, Hughes added.

“I think the difference now is Merritt is on the map. It is an amazing community in terms of the potential,  so close to Vancouver, close to Kelowna, those communities are blowing people out of the market in terms of being able to come and live and have a dignified life,” said Hughes. “Whether it is people who are low-income or moderate income, this is the place to be in my mind — it has everything you could possibly want.”