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Squamish affordable housing project grapples with construction delays

Spirit Creek tenants were supposed to move in towards the end of summer. That's been pushed back to February-April next year due to labour shortages.

Construction delays are pushing back the move-in date for residents of the Spirit Creek Apartments, formerly known as the Buckley Avenue project.

This is the second set of delays, said Jaye Russell, the executive director of Sea to Sky Community Services Society, which runs the facility.

The building will also be home to the new youth hub, Foundry Sea to Sky.

Russell said the original occupancy date was intended to be towards the end of summer. This was then delayed to later this year, ideally before Christmas.

However, according to a letter received by tenants, the latest set of delays has pushed the move-in date for people to anywhere between February and April 2023.

There has been an offer to reimburse tenants' deposits while still guaranteeing their place in the facility.

"The majority of these delays are simply coming down to getting the right skilled labour on site to be able to complete the work," said Russell, who added the move-in date will ideally be this spring.

"Sea to Sky is working hard to complete the building of Spirit Creek apartments. However, because of delays related to extreme labour shortages, our pre-holiday timeline is no longer possible. So, although we're really disappointed, [we] empathize with all the future residents with how challenging this delay is — being able to plan … around the next move in their housing."

What delays mean for tenants

Some residents who were accepted as tenants for the facility have expressed concern about the situation.

The Squamish Chief has agreed to withhold their names from publication, as they fear their housing situation could be jeopardized by speaking out.

One resident works in social services. She said her take-home pay is about $1,800 a month, and that if she didn't get accepted into Spirit Creek, she would've had to move out of town.

The born-and-raised Squamish resident currently has a place to live, but it is shared and not ideal.

Having a unit in Spirit Creek means a lot to her.

"It's extremely important. I get to keep my job, I get to continue to live in my hometown," she said. "For me to move away from that would just be super difficult to start all over."

Another person who has been accepted into Spirit Creek is also having trouble with the delays.

At the moment, he still has a temporary place to live, but he, too, said that he can't afford to live in Squamish unless he moves into Spirit Creek.

Currently, he's relying on friends and relatives to provide him with temporary housing. He's chased down prospective stop-gap housing, but there are no guarantees.

Things haven't been easy.

The other thing that makes his tenancy at Spirit Creek important is the accessible facilities. Those can be hard to come by in Squamish, and he has a condition that requires that accommodation.

"I try not to worry too much because things are bad enough," he said. "So I just kind of hope it'll work out."

Russell urged any residents who need housing assistance in the meantime to get in contact with her organization to work out possible solutions.

"We are certainly taking those conversations — or the times when people do contact us — on a case-by-case basis, and working to support those individuals the best we can," she said.

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