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BIRCH needs your help!

The next major milestone for the BIRCH project will be our application for BC Housing’s Community Housing Fund intake in January 2021.

In support of this application, we are asking Bowen Island community members to write a letter of support for this project. We appreciate that you are all busy (especially at this time of year) so we’ve prepared a letter template that is available here.

Please (pretty please) send your support letters by Dec. 31, 2020 to: info@birchousing.org.

Thank you so very much, and we look forward to seeing you at our Update Event on November 25th at 7pm.

BIRCH support letter BCH template

Nov. 25th: Community Update Event!

Hi again Bowen Island,

It’s us, BIRCH, or more formally, Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing. It’s been too long since we last talked. We are remedying that by providing an update to the community on BIRCH’s progress, our current project status, and where we’re headed next.

Given the current health situation, the best and safest way to do this is by hosting an online community update event on Wednesday, November 25th at 7 pm.

To register, please visit: https://bit.ly/birchhousing

You will also learn more by going to our Facebook page or Facebook event.

At this event we will reveal for the first time what the building will look like, a breakdown of unit types, and projected rent levels. Boni Madison Architects, our development consultants CitySpaces, and BIRCH Executive Director Robyn Fenton will be available afterwards to answer questions.

We are really looking forward to seeing you there!

New Funding!

BIRCH has exciting news to share! 

BC Housing has recently supported BIRCH with a $101,500 interest-free loan under its Pre-Development Funding program. This funding supports early stage projects in initiating design for non-market housing by providing funding for refining the building project design and developing more accurate project budgets. This funding will allow BIRCH to continue working with our architects, Boni Maddison Architects, and our development consultants, CitySpaces, to apply for project funding through the BC Housing Community Housing Fund and CMHC’s National Housing Co-Investment Fund. If our final applications are successful, it will allow BIRCH to complete the final design and engineering to begin construction – the ultimate goal being the completion of new community housing on Bowen Island, something the community urgently needs.

As always, we appreciate the support of the Bowen Island community, including Bowen Island Municipality, and look forward to sharing more good news in the near future!

Thank you 2019 :)

As this year comes to a close, BIRCH would like to take a moment to say thank you to everyone in the community that has helped us along the way.

It was a busy year for BIRCH and included several important milestones for our project: we secured a leasehold lot of community land on Miller Road, we received over $90,000 in grants towards the project and completed a feasibility report. 

Looking forward to 2020 and next steps, we’re extremely excited to announce that we’ve selected our project architect, Boni Maddison Architects. Over the next few months we’ll be working with BMA to develop schematic design plans for our first community housing project, and will share those as soon as we’re able to! 

Again, thank you Bowen for all your support this past year. We wouldn’t be where we are today without your help. Now, let’s flip that last calendar page and get to work on 2020!

Great Grant News II!

Our second exciting announcement is that through its Community Investment program, Vancity has provided the Society with a grant of 29,432!

This grant is intended to support BIRCH in developing the business case for the project. The entire BIRCH board sends enormous gratitude to CMHC and Vancity for their investments in the creation of affordable housing for Bowen Island.

Great Grant News I!

BIRCH is pleased to report that we have received not one but two project funding grants to keep our project moving forward!

Through its Seed Funding Program, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has provided the Society with $28,000. This funding may be applied to costs such as:

  • Analysis of need and demand for the proposed project
  • Special purpose surveys
  • Preliminary financial feasibility
  • Business plans
  • Incorporation
  • Option to purchase (loan only)
  • Registration of security (loan only)
  • Professional appraisal
  • Site surveys
  • Planning fees (for example, rezoning, development agreement costs)
  • Preliminary design
  • Project viability study
  • Environmental site assessments
  • Geo-technical reports (soil load bearing tests)
  • Energy modelling study (cost-benefit analysis)
  • Accessibility modelling study (cost-benefit analysis)
  • Engineering studies (for example, wind, shadow, and traffic impact analyses)
  • Project drawings and specifications
  • Construction cost estimates
  • Quantity surveyor
  • Contract documents
  • Development permits
  • Final viability report
  • Completion appraisal

2019 Housing Survey Results

This past Spring BIRCH asked the Bowen Island community about the current housing situation, for feedback on our proposed housing project and thoughts on our future together. This was done as part of the feasibility stage of our project – and generously funded by a grant from the VanCity Foundation.

The feedback summarized in this document will help guide BIRCH as we progress towards the development of non-market rental housing on Bowen Island. We look forward to sharing more insights from the survey in a future report – but for now – here is a summary of the results:

BIRCH – site confirmed

BIRCH is thrilled to announce that at it’s regular council meeting on May 27, 2019, Bowen Island Municipal Council approval a 0.15ha site for BIRCH to build non profit rental housing for the community.

At the same meeting, council agreed to expedite the agreement to lease – a legal document that will secure this site for us and give us the commitment we need to apply for our next stage of funding.

We are very appreciative of the time and efforts of the Mayor’s Standing Committee on Community Lands, Council and Staff – as well as the collaboration of our future neighbours, the Bowen Island Health Centre Foundation.

NEXT STEPS: We will be completing the feasibility stage over the next 6-8 weeks and will be applying to CMHC for SEED funding to move to the next per-development stage – which will include hiring the architects and engineers to design the project.

Bowen Island Community Foundation Grant

BIRCH is very pleased to announce we have received a $15,000 grant from the Bowen Island Community Foundation. Executive Director, Robyn Fenton, and board chair, David McCullum, were in attendance at the Foundation’s AGM in April.

See more about the foundation and the amazing projects and work they support: https://bowenfoundation.com/

These funds will be used towards the project development phase of our first project, in partnership with the municipality, to be built on community lands.

A big thank you to the Bowen Island Community Foundation for investing in the creation of affordable housing for Bowen Island.

Help us name our project!

We want your ideas to create a name for our lot 3 project!

We want as many suggestions as possible! Then BIRCH will create a short list and we’ll have the entire community vote on the name, via our upcoming survey.

Please send your ideas by February 28th to: info@birchousing.org or in our post on facebook.

VanCity Grant Funding Received!

BIRCH is very pleased to announce we have received a $19,000 grant from the VanCity Community Foundation to take our project to the next phase.

This grant is Project Funding that will go specifically towards the next phase of the project on lot 3: Feasibility. The Feasibility Phase will include:

  • Community consultation
  • Concept design
  • Feasibility analysis and report (business case)

 This work will be completed by our consultants CitySpaces, and some funding is included for BIRCH to work along side them, to build our internal capacity. This means VanCity is investing in BIRCH so that for future projects, we may be able to complete much of this work ourselves, with less support from consultants.

Goals for Feasibility Phase (approx. 3 month): 

  1. Confirm land contribution by entering into a lease agreement with Bowen Island Municipality
  2. Have a clear vision of the project (unit numbers, unit mix, rent levels, building type)
  3. Complete a financial feasibility analysis for the project based on project needs
  4. Analyze feasibility options based on desired funder/financier models (BC Housing & CMHC)
  5. Confirm additional partnerships (if any) for the project
  6. Be ready to apply for next level of funding, which is SEED funding from CMHC

A huge thank you to VanCity and the support we’ve received from Noha & Emma at CitySpaces to get to this stage.


While we can now confidently continue our work towards the project on lot 3, BIRCH will continue to fundraise and apply for grants for operation funding. Securing this kind of funding is a key to making BIRCH a successful organisation in the long term. Why does BIRCH need operational funding and how is it different from project funding?

Operational Funding for a non profit such as BIRCH covers costs such as: insurance, bookkeeping/accounting, phone bills, website, and most importantly, staff time to: apply for grants; meet with: consultants, community members, elected officials, developers; attend conferences – making connections in the sector; update the website and social media; perform general administration duties, organise board meetings, record minutes, create annual reports, etc.

Project Funding is money allocated specifically to one project and to achieving specific goals and outcomes. It cannot be used to pay our regular bills, nor for staff time doing admin for the organisation.


As part of this coming phase, BIRCH will soon be conducting a survey and we want ideas from the community on what we should name this project! The short list will be included in the survey for the community to vote on. People can submit their ideas by Feb 28 on facebook, or email: info@birchousing.org

We have a new Director!

BIRCH has a new director! We are thrilled to announce that Adam Lougheed was recently elected to the Board of Directors and is already hard at work.

Here’s his bio: “Adam lives with his partner in the Bluewater neighbourhood and is proud to call Bowen home. As a transportation planner with a focus on transit, walking and cycling, Adam is committed to a Bowen that is safe and accessible for all. Prior to Bowen, Adam worked in policy research and long-term strategic planning. As a Director, Adam is excited to contribute to the development of diverse and affordable housing on Bowen.”

Thank you, and welcome Adam!

BIRCH update on Lot 3

BIRCH would like to thank the new mayor and council for their unanimous support in moving forward with the BIRCH affordable rental project on lot 3 of the community lands.

At the council meeting on Tuesday November 13th, Council resolved to authorize staff to enter into an “Agreement to Lease” with BIRCH to provide an approximate 0.480 hectare area of lot 3 for the project, and agreed to provide a letter for BIRCH’s funding application to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation outlining BIM’s commitment to providing a portion of its Community Lands for a housing project.

Thank you mayor and council! And thank you Bowen Island for your support!

 

Inaugural BARC meeting

In our ongoing commitment to community engagement, this week we held our inaugural meeting of our project community advisory committee – for now to be known as BARC – BIRCH Advisory & Research Committee.

We want to thank the enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers who make up this committee and we look forward to working together to making our Lot 3 project a success.