By Greg Nikkel
A 14-unit affordable housing complex opened in the former St. Dominic Savio School building, providing affordable housing and accommodations for those who need independent living with some support from agencies.
City and government officials gathered to officially open Dominic Place on Fourth Street on Friday morning, along with Mel Van Betuw, president of Van Bee Holdings, which owns the former Catholic elementary school building.
In his opening comments, Van Betuw said while the residence was his initial idea, it took the cooperation of three levels of government, federal, provincial and municipal, to make it possible, and he and his contractors have worked over the past two to three years to bring it to reality. The complex opened for residents on May 1.
“What we’re part of today is the completion of a truly collaborative process. Most importantly, it’s ensuring that people will be able to live in a safe and secure environment,” said Weyburn-Big Muddy MLA Dustin Duncan, speaking for Social Services minister and minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation (SHC), Tina Beaudry-Mellor. He pointed out the province has assisted with the construction of about 100 affordable housing units in Weyburn since 2007.
“This project upholds mental health initiatives in Saskatchewan, as well as the poverty reduction strategy, to ensure people have access to safe and secure affordable housing,” said Duncan.
Mayor Marcel Roy said a facility like this is an addition to the community of Weyburn, helping it maintain its position as the best place to live on the Prairies, and fifth-best place in Canada, as stated recently by MoneySense magazine in their ratings of towns and cities across Canada.
“We all seek independence. Most importantly, the individuals who live here seek independence so they can be safe and secure,” said the mayor, adding of the project, “It’s added so much to the community, to make Weyburn such a wonderful city to live in.”
CMHC representative Kim Tyndall said, “This is the best part of my job, to see completion of projects like this one,” adding that money by itself is not enough to do what’s necessary.
She pointed out that a four-month consultation on the new federal housing strategy has just been completed, with the new strategy to come out later this year.
The primary function of Dominic Place is to provide semi-independent supportive housing to adults who experience severe and persistent mental illness, and the goal is to help adults live as independently as possible, with coaching and training provided by the staff from Weyburn Group Homes. The services provided includes life skills training and coaching, peer support, in-house recreation and exercise opportunities (using the gym), with additional support provided in collaboration with the health care system and other community supports as necessary.
Duncan noted the federal and provincial governments, through CMHC and SHC, provided funding of $480,000 towards 12 of the 14 units through the Capital Rent Subsidy under the Canada-Saskatchewan Investment in Affordable Housing agreement, plus $70,000 to match with City of Weyburn under the Rental Construction incentive.
Van Bee Holdings provided about $1.6 million in the form of cash-equity and mortgage financing for the housing component. The company also has commercial offices and the office for Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division in the remainder of the former school building.
Van Betuw conceived of the idea for the residential project, and through discussions and talks with various government agencies, it was approved and went ahead to become a reality.
“Taking this existing school, renovating and modernizing it, will provide affordable housing to our community for years to come. In the past, my father was committed to providing quality affordable housing, and Dominic Place has given me the opportunity to continue this tradition,” said Van Betuw.
Of the 12 rent subsidy rental units, nine are located on the second floor and are new construction, and the remaining three are on the main floor. The bachelor and one-bedroom units range in size from 399 square feet (37 sq. metres) to 772 sq. ft. (71.7 sq. metres).