A new apartment building is opening its doors in Merritt, providing 75 units of housing for the community. Olympic Villas, located on Walters Street, is a four-storey apartment featuring a number of unit types and amenities, and was built utilizing BC Housing’s “HousingHub” program. The program was created in 2018 and works with communities, non-profit organizations, and private-sector developers to increase the supply of rental housing and ownership options for middle-income residents.

The Province of BC provided Olympic Villas Inc approximately $16.6 million in low-interest financing via the HousingHub program, which will be paid back with interest by the company. While the funding is made available through the provincial government, the funds themselves are not provided by the Province. The funding is part of a 10-year, $7-billion housing plan introduced by the NDP government when it was first elected in 2017. Since then, the Province said it has helped fund over 36,000 units of affordable housing. 

“These new units will have a very positive impact in Merritt, delivering safe and affordable homes for families, seniors, and others in the community,” said Murray Rankin, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing. “Housing developments like this will help communities like Merritt continue to grow and contribute to a stronger rural B.C.” 

The development has had its share of controversy, including the removal of 20 affordable housing units from the original plans of the building. The previous Merritt City Council questioned the affordability of the units, before ultimately passing the application for development without any affordable housing units included. The provincial funding of the project also faced criticism in the BC Legislature. BC Liberal House Leader, MLA Peter Milobar, questioned why the loan was approved after the removal of the originally proposed affordable housing.

Rent at Olympic Villas ranges from $1,020 for a studio to $2,380 for a three-bedroom apartment. The building is located near restaurants, stores, a school, and the Nicola Valley Hospital. It features amenity spaces, which include a gym, three common rooms, and a barbecue area. The building also features eight accessible units. 

When the building was first proposed, a main concern of the city council and community at the time was parking. The new development hopes to address this concern with the installation of 120 parking spaces behind the new building on Walters Street. The apartment building also borders Voght Street, one of Merritt’s busiest roadways. Merritt’s newly elected Mayor, Mike Goetz, said he is pleased with the new development. 

“The City of Merritt is very pleased to have 75 new housing units available for present and future residents,” said Goetz.

“The city of Merritt has historically low vacancy rates and new housing is very much in demand. We are grateful to add these new units to our housing supply and continue to invite developers to help grow our community.”

Residents are expected to move into the new building later this month, when it receives its final occupancy permit. Developers with Olympic Villas Inc said they were excited to offer the new homes for “professionals and entrepreneurs.” 

“Housing represents the quality of life, which determines the level of satisfaction and happiness in our lives,” said Irfan Sonawala, director, Olympic Villas Inc. 

“We have built with amenities and construction quality to create such happy memories beyond essential housing. This building is targeted to attract professionals and entrepreneurs who play a key role in the growth of smaller towns to economical hubs. We are appreciative of the HousingHub program that goes beyond essential affordable housing to quality housing at market rents that make such remote development possible.”

For more information on provincially funded housing projects, visit www.bchousing.org/homes-for-BC.