It’s that time of the year when old friends reconnect, catch up on the year past and make plans for the next. We also wanted to reassure you that our low profile the last while doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy, we have a lot to share!

The housing crisis on Bowen Island has of course not gone away. And COVID-19 has affected virtually every aspect of everyone’s lives. But in spite of these Interesting Times, BIRCH has been able to advance our project in many ways, and we are even working on a second potential rental housing project for Bowen Island.

Since our last update we received two grants that will allow us to continue advancing our project on Lot 3. The first of these is $15,000 from Bowen Island Community Foundation; these funds are being used towards project specific needs, such as land preparation and consultant fees. The second is an $8500 operational funding grant from Bowen Island Municipality, which will be used to cover ongoing administrative costs and are critical to ensuring that we continue to make progress on the project. BIRCH is strongly encouraging the municipality to prioritise implementing the MRDT (Municipal & Regional District Tax), as it would provide a revenue source to fund affordable housing on Bowen.

On that front we have now completed the schematic design of our building on Lot 3 on Miller Road. With the support of our development consultants, CitySpaces and our architects at Boni Maddison Architects, we have been able to apply for project funding from 3 levels of government.

As for the external funding required to advance towards construction, our application to BC Housing in their January intake window was unsuccessful. Of the record 190 applications they received, only 50 were funded. Unfortunately, BIRCH was not among the successful applicants. We received considerable positive feedback from BCH and may re-apply in the next intake window.

In the meantime, we are working with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Canada’s national housing agency, on alternative funding options. In support of this we have signed an MOU with Lookout Housing and Health Society as a potential partner for the Lot 3 project. Lookout has more than 40 years of non-profit housing experience in the region and will be our partner to advance our project towards completion.

We have also partnered with Lookout to submit a joint response to the Municipality’s Request for Expressions of Interest for Lot 1 Area 2 of the BIM Community Lands. BIRCH and Lookout are proposing an approximately 20-unit rental housing project there.

In the next year we hope to move forward with CMHC funding for Lot 3, with Lookout as our partner. In support of this we will revive our community working group, BARC and conduct our 2nd community housing survey. Targeting a launch date early in the new year, this survey will provide a “pulse-check” on current community housing needs and concerns.

Lastly, we would like to thank our volunteer Board directors Aaron Davison, Adam Lougheed, Jack Resels, Amy Seabrook, Tim Wake, Marla Zucht, and David McCullum for their time, our friends at CitySpace Development Consultants and Greenbooks Accounting for all their hard work this past year. Additionally, the BIM Community Foundation, and Bowen Island Municipality for their financial support. And the Bowen Island community as a whole for your ongoing support – Thank you all!

And one more thank you is due to our fearless Executive Director Robyn Fenton. Simply put: Robyn is the driving force behind BIRCH. Her endless enthusiasm and energy, her industry experience and insight, her contacts, and her relentless optimism are what has enabled our progress to date.

Thank you, Robyn!

We wish you and yours a safe, happy, and resilient 2022, and thank you again for your support.