Cutting the ribbon at the official opening of Storeys on Dec. 1. (photo from Shelley Karrel)
“Those involved in Storeys feel like a family,” said Brenda Plant, executive director of Turning Point Housing Society, speaking at the opening gala of the rental housing development in Richmond on Dec. 1. “We’ve been working on this together for eight years now.”
Storeys, on Granville Avenue, provides 129 units of affordable rentals, which have on-site supportive services. The project is managed by five nonprofits. The Jewish community’s Tikva Housing Society has three floors of housing for low-income families: 18 units in total with rents at 30% of a household’s income – known as the Diamond Residences at Storeys. The other organizations involved are Coast Mental Health, providing units for low-income clients who need mental health supports; SUCCESS, which provides units for low-income seniors; Pathways Clubhouse Society of Richmond, which provides supportive environments for individuals working towards mental wellness; and Turning Point Housing Society, which provides units for individuals in recovery from addiction.
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie spoke of the importance of the new building, pointing out that the City of Richmond contributed $19.4 million to the project, or one-third of the construction funding. “Some of you here may remember this site as a former KFC and a small office building,” he noted. “Eight years later, here we stand.”
“The housing units provided in this unique project will make such a difference in the lives of those who benefit from them,” said Selina Robinson, B.C. minister of municipal affairs and housing, during her address. To the nonprofits who made it happen, she said, “You guys rock.”
The event also featured remarks by MP Joe Peschisolido (Steveston-Richmond East); Kathleen Kennedy-Strath, chair of the board of Coast Mental Health; Jessica Berglund, president of the board of Pathways Clubhouse; Queenie Choo, chief executive officer of SUCCESS; Gord Argue, board chair of Turning Point Housing; and Shelley Karrel, co-chair of Tikva Housing.
The provincial and federal governments contributed just over $5 million and donors almost $2 million. BC Housing was key in assisting with providing the construction loan and will help organizations in securing their long-term mortgages at favourable rates.
Tikva’s involvement in Storeys was initiated under the leadership of Susana Cogan, who passed away before it was completed, and Linda Thomas, executive director of Tikva Housing, attended the opening with the society’s administrator, Anat Gogo, who led the Independent and others on a tour of the building. The suites are modern and well-designed, many with great views.
Tikva is supported by the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and worked with Jewish Family Services to place the tenants. The Diamond Foundation gave Tikva the equity to be able to be at the table with the other Storeys project partners. Tikva’s 18 units are now home to families and individuals, from children through seniors.
“What has happened is that we have created a real community within a community,” explained Tikva Housing’s Karrel of the Diamond Residences at Storeys. “At one point, when the elevator wasn’t working because of a power outage, one of the tenants offered to go check on everyone to make sure they were OK. We hope to have communal Shabbat dinners and holiday events for the tenants,” she told the Independent.
Storeys is located near Garden City Bakery, Brighouse Park, Richmond Public Library, and many other resources. The Bayit’s Rabbi Levi Varnai recently visited to put mezuzot on the doors of the Jewish homes.
“In order to honour everyone’s commitment, I have a little present,” said Turning Point’s Plant midway through her presentation. She then handed out Staples’ “that was easy” buttons – “because I want you all to know that we’re going to do this again.”
Matthew Gindin is a freelance journalist, writer and lecturer. He writes regularly for the Forward and All That Is Interesting, and has been published in Religion Dispatches, Situate Magazine, Tikkun and elsewhere. He can be found on Medium and Twitter.