Decades ago a small group of visionary women came together to form the Fernie Women’s Center (FWC).

From this gathering of women power the result has been an incredible number of living units that has kept a diversified population in this community.

The latest development, North End Court (seen in photos) is in progress being built in-between Tom Uphill Manor and IDES School.

The following is a short history compiled from the files of the FFHS board of how this group progressed from their humble beginning to the groups they are today:

In 1996 FWC identified a need for Second Stage Housing and with the City providing two city lots for 60 years at no cost and waiving all Development Cost Charges-Chrysalis House was built.

Two years later Elk Valley Society for Community Living, a society under FWC approached the City for land to build units for affordable housing for seniors, low income families and people with disabilities. With the support of the City and BC Housing New Horizons with 22 Rent Geared to Income and 10 Low End of Market rental units was built with the City leasing the property for 60 years at no cost and DCC’s waived.

It was decided to form a new society in order to complete the construction of the new townhouse complex and to manage operations. Fernie Family Housing Society was created and on April 1, 2001 New Horizons Village was opened.

In 2003 a new partnership was formed (Fernie Affordable Housing Partnership) that included the City of Fernie, Fernie Family Housing, Elk Valley Family Society, Elk Valley Society for Community Living , Fernie Women’s Center and Columbia Basin Family Resource Society. The group applied for SEED funding from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to conduct a Needs Assessment of Seniors in regards to housing and support requirements. The conclusion of the survey revealed that access to available and affordable housing was vital to keeping seniors in the community. It had become clear that many longtime seniors in Fernie had already made the move to other communities that offered the type of housing they required.

Fernie Family Housing took the lead to secure Tom Uphill Memorial Home and in 2005 with the support of the partnership, local groups and MLA Bill Bennett, FFHS took ownership of Tom Uphill building for ten dollars paid by Mr. Bennett.

The transition from an industrial senior health facility to a home for seniors and people with disabilities was made possible by BC Housing, CMHC, a $125,000 endowment from the Evans family of Fernie, a number of smaller funding partners, strong support of the community and with the City waiving property taxes and building permit fees. Tom Uphill Manor opened with 24 standard units and 3 transitional units for seniors and people with disabilities on October 2006.

FFH Society attempted to secure government funding in 2008 for more units but were unsuccessful however in 2009 the Society supported the Veneto 45 unit project along with the City of Fernie and with the funding from the Real Estate Foundation purchased a two bedroom ground floor rental unit and also contracted with BC Housing to manage their 12 one bedroom units and with Veneto Place Properties Ltd to manage their 8 units and their strata until a licensed property manager was hired in 2012. In 2013 FFH decided to relinquish its management of the units and because by 2017 government funding was becoming available FFHS applied for funding for a 35 unit apartment complex and 14 townhouses. They were given the go ahead to begin both projects and this is North End Court.

The FFH board set the target population for this latest build as being units for singles, seniors and families says board president Gayle Vallance and member Jill Gilhuly. Jill adds “The mission of the FFH Society is strengthening the community by enhancing access for residents to safe and affordable housing, with the support of our funding providers BC Housing and Columbia Basin Trust we are pleased to be moving closer to providing new rental housing option for residents of Fernie.” Yellowridge Construction is the main contractor responsible for the build with expectation that all groundwork will be completed by this November with a full project completion in 18 months.

The board still has original members and with new members are dedicated to bringing affordable living units to this community so that Fernie can be accessible to everyone.

They extend sincere thanks to BC Housing, CMHC, CBT, City of Fernie, City Spaces, Rockies Law, and all others who have assisted in any way to make this new build possible and look forward to the completion that will offer attractive, affordable, walkable units with opportunity for rental within a range of affordability from deep subsidy to market rent to residents of Fernie.

Deep thanks also is directed to this group of tenacious board members who over the years have continuously seen a need and worked diligently to bring it to reality. Congratulations Fernie Family Housing Society.

By Mary Giuliano

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