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News/Blog: GVHS Building History

As GVHS celebrates 65 years of operations, we thought it would be interesting to pull together a history of our buildings.

You will learn that GVHS started as a voluntary organization to provide housing for seniors, and through the decades has developed into the trusted builder of affordable housing that provides for nearly 1,300 residents across the region.

More information about our buildings, including quite a few interesting stories, follows.

timeline 1

Banfield Lodge (Sold)

  • Built in 1958

Banfield Lodge was the Victoria Seniors Housing Society’s first building. Though we were incorporated in 1956 it took around two years to get a building up and running. At this point the society was managed only by its board of volunteers; the first business manager Mr. Cyril Barker wasn’t hired until 1973. Two city lots were combined to provide room for this building to be put up. The final cost of the project was totaled at 122,600.00 ($1,186,381.66 in 2021). The society managed it for 30 years until it was sold to Coastal Communities Services Society in 1988. The building was named for Charles Banfield a member of the Gorge Road Hospital Board.

Townley 1

  • Opened June 15, 1967
  •  39 units total

The total cost of the project was 307,000.00 ($2,492,630.68 in 2021).

Townley 2

  • Rebuilt in 2020
  • 55+ / PWD and families
  • studio: 23 // 1BD: 31 // 3BD: 8 // 4BD: 2

For many years it had been in the grand plan to have Townley redeveloped. The original building made very poor use of the property’s space and it had no elevator and no sprinkler system. The building was livable but had much more potential. We went ahead with the redevelopment plan and upgraded Townley from a 39 unit building to a suite of buildings and townhomes with 64 units, including 8 three bedroom and 2 four bedrooms.

Esquimalt Lions Lodge

  • Built in 1972
  • Studio-70 // 1BR-7

After the success of Townley, the society was interested in expanding its portfolio. Around this time the Esquimalt Lions Club (which was well established at this point, founded in 1951) took notice of our work and the two groups began to correspond about the possibility of establishing an affordable seniors housing project in Esquimalt. This was the first of many mutually beneficial interactions that GVHS would have with the Lions Clubs of Greater Victoria. The Lions spearheaded the project and once construction was complete the building was turned over to be managed by GVHS. This building remained in use for almost 50 years. It is currently slated to be redeveloped.

Campbell Lodge

  • Built in 1978
  • 1BR-26 // Studio-74

In the years after the completion of our second building project, B.C. entered an era of increased government funding for housing projects. In 1976 the society was approved for a government loan of approximately $2,500,000 (about $1,140,000 in 2021) to build 99 units of affordable housing for seniors. The process of finding an appropriate lot was long and grueling but eventually the spot at 918 Collinson Street was selected, and construction began. A third of the construction costs were covered by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Once completed, the building was named for May Campbell, who served on the board from 1957 to 1984 in various roles including as president, and Clive Campbell who was a consulting architect for the society. 

Sitkum Lodge

  • Built in 1982
  • 1BR- 75

Sitkum was another building built during the era of increased government housing expenditure. The story goes that architect Arthur Erickson, famous for designing Simon Fraser University and Robson Square in Vancouver, owed the government 5 buildings. The last of those five was Sitkum Lodge. After his initial design, changes had to be made to the building to accommodate the seniors who would be living there. The design was changed so much that Erickson disavowed any connection to it, but the plaque marking it as a building of his design remains in the lobby. 

Colwood Lodge

  • Built in 1983
  • 1BR-49 // 2BR-1

Summary: In 1979 the South Vancouver Island Lions Club put out a survey to the senior citizens population in Colwood-Langford. The results showed a great need for affordable housing for seniors in the area. With this in hand, the Lions reached out to GVHS to request that a development be built in the area to cover this need. Though this was quite a bit outside the region that we had been working in up to that point, GVHS agreed to the request and the planning of Colwood Lodge began. Two members of the South Vancouver Island Lions Club joined the GVHS board of directors, to ensure the communities continued involvement in the project. 

The project took more than four years in total, with many delays imposed by the government before a suitable parcel of land was even found. Eventually the two properties that would be combined to form 85 Belmont, both then owned by West Valley Holdings, were selected and construction began. A grant of $350,000 (approx. 1,000,000 in 2021) was provided by the government to fund the construction and operation of the facility.  

Constance Court

  • Built in 1991
  • 1BR-51 // 2BR-1

Constance was built through the funding of the Non-Profit Social Housing Program. Special credit for the project was attributed to a Mr. Grayson M. Hajesh who advised on/coordinated the rezoning of the lot from residential to 6 story apartment usage (the first to be allowed in Esquimalt), and who contributed money and art to the furnishing of the common areas of the building. The Esquimalt Lions were also thanked for some large contribution to this building in a letter from the society’s president at that time.

The building is 6 floors, but the top floor has a peaked roof and thus can’t have apartments, instead it has a lovely lounge with big windows.

Dowler Lodge

  • Built in 1988
  • 1BR-65 // 2BR-1

It seems likely that we were involved in the construction of the building (we have receipts for the cost of construction with our name on it as well as some other things), and we believe  we acquired it in the beginning stages of construction and then finished it ourselves (the wiring suggests that this is true). It is alluded to in some of the notes that the Lions Club made some contribution to this building as well.

Grafton Lodge

  • Managed for Lions starting in 2004, Took over in 2007
  • 1BR-38 // 2BR-1

Grafton was built in 2004 by the Esquimalt Lions Senior Housing Society. At that point they entered into a contract with VIHA to provide support services to the tenants of the lodge. We were tapped to manage the building starting at its opening. In 2007 we were asked by the Lions to take over ownership of the building, in addition to our management role.

Later that year we were contacted by the company who built the building, who claimed that the Esquimalt Lions Senior Housing Society owed them between 50,000 and 100,000 for “work done but not paid for and for deficiency holdbacks”. As we had “bought” the building from them for a negligible price, and they no longer existed, the builder suggested that we owed them this fund. Deficiency holdbacks are amounts of money held back from payment of a building contract to ensure there are no deficiencies in the finished product. While we were corresponding with them about this deficiency assessments were underway, and it was determined that the amount that would be required to cover the deficiencies that were found was more than the contractor was asking for and thus we would not be paying them. 

We renewed our contract with VIHA twice, eventually terminating it in 2018. The whole endeavor was widely considered more effort than it was worth and helped solidify our position in the sector as a non-supportive housing organization.

Tillicum Terrace

  • Built in 1993, Acquired by us in 2006
  • 1BR-24 // 2BR-25 // Double1BR-4

In 2006 we were approached by the Kiwanis Club of Sidney and Saanich Peninsula. They had been running a housing project at Tillicum Terrace since they built it in 1993, but they were having trouble managing it. It was run by mostly volunteer effort and the force simply wasn’t there anymore. We entered into talks to them and ended up taking over the building later that year. 

Nigel Square

  • Built in 1991, We took over July 1, 2007
  • 2BR-2 // 3BR-14 // 4BR-2

Again in 2007 we were approached by a society with an interest in having us takeover their housing project. Nigel Valley was built in 1991 and was run by the Victoria Foursquare Church Housing Society. The story was similar to Tillicum with the volunteer board having to put a lot of effort into the running of the operations, while having trouble finding enough people to fill out all of its positions properly. 

GVHS board chair Eric Dahli sat down with the head of their board and talked about the GVHS acquiring the project. Foursquare did not have any unusual requirements and we took on Nigel later that year.

Balmoral Garden Court

  • Built in 1992, we took over in 2008
  • 1BR-28, 2BR-34, 3BR-11

By late 2008, under the leadership of Kaye Melliship, the society’s reputation had grown quite favorable. Earlier that year, the official name of the society had been changed to Greater Victoria Housing Society, reflecting our commitment to provide housing to low-income Victorians of all demographics. Additionally, over the last two years we had acquired Tillicum Terrace, Grafton Lodge, and Nigel Square from three other smaller societies. At this point, we began communicating with the Balmoral Housing Society. They had leased land from the Trustees for the Present of the Congregation of the First United Church and put in their own affordable housing development in 1992. They had run it for many years, but as time went on, they were struggling to keep it afloat. For the last year it had been managed by a local property management company, but the society was looking for a more sustainable long-term solution. Thus, they entered into an agreement with GVHS to have us take over the property.

Forest Heights

  • Bought in 2009
  • 1BR-15 // 2BR-3 // Studio-1
  •  Article re: Adam Gant – League Group unpleasant business dealings: https://www.timescolonist.com/business/league-group-likened-to-ponzi-scheme-1.1193369
  •  Donations for purchase of forest heights:
    • GVHS Contributions $500,000
    • Cost Capital Savings – Community investment Fund – 35,000
    • BC Housing – grant of $190,000
    • CRD Housing Trust Fund Commission – $250,000
    • Kami Norman, Royal LePage – $10,00
    • Mischa Gringas, Colliers International – “Donations and in-kind services”
    • Andrew MacKinnon, Dockside Green – “Donations and in-kind services”
    • Dale Schuss – Randall North – “Donations and in-kind services”
    • Real-estate Foundation of British Columbia – $50,000
    • League Assets was vendor, made cash contribution to offset price. $200,000

As of 2009 the Society had accumulated cash in the order of $500,000 that did not have a designated purpose. With this in our pockets, we set out to find a reasonably priced apartment building to purchase. Forest Heights, located in Quadra Village, was owned by the League Investor Group, a local investment firm, and upon contacting them we found that their management was enthused by the idea of helping a local non-profit. The price was set at a very reasonable level and grants were received from several sources (see full list of funding above) to cover the full cost of the purchase. In 2014 it was revealed that the League Investment Group had been participating in a number of troublesome business practices and their organization was shut down. Fortunately, we were well distanced from them and any related legality at that point.

Pembroke Mews

  • Built in 2012 
  • 1BR-10 // Studio-15
  • Contributors to construction funding:
  • Coast Capital Community Fund – $30,000
  • Victoria Housing fund (city of Victoria) – $250,000
  • Home Depot Canada Foundation Grant – $25,000
  • CMHC PDF Loan – $50,000
  • United Way of Greater Victoria – $100,000
  • Capital Region Housing Trust Fund – $375,000

Pembroke Mews was built in response to the need for housing for young working single adults with low to modest income in the city. The project was done in collaboration with Knappett Projects Inc, who facilitated the affordability of the undertaking in several ways. The project received support from the city’s housing fund, the CRD housing trust, and a number of other sources (see full list above), and commercial space on the ground floor of the building was sold as another avenue to offset project costs.

Dahli Place

  • Built in 2014
  • Studio-8 // 1BR-22 // 2BR-32

Dahli was the result of a collaboration between GVHS and another local non-profit. Using the skillset of both organizations, two buildings were built and each NPO took custody of one. The project was geared toward addressing the need for affordable housing for families and younger people in the workforce. A grant of $680,000 was received from the City of Victoria’s Victoria Housing Fund to assist with this project.

The building was named for former chair of the GVHS society board, Eric Dahli, who served from 2003 to 2012. 

Sutcliffe Court

  • Built in 1984
  • 1BR-73 // 2BR-1 // Studio-1

Sutcliffe was the same story as several of our other projects. The Cordova Bay Seniors Lodge Society couldn’t manage it, so in 2015 they approached us to take it over from them. Raymond Moss was helping them with a really difficult eviction, and they liked how we did things.

The Cordova Bay Kiwanis club had been involved with this building when in was first built in 1984 and had managed it when it opened. 

A couple things make this project a little different from our others to that date. First, at the time, taking on this project represented our furthest expansion out of Victoria thus far. Second, this project is a suite of family townhouses rather than an apartment building, like most of our places. 

The Parsons at Brentwood

  • Built in 2019
  • 1BR- 20 // Studio – 20

Historically, we had passed up the opportunity to take over a building that was out in Brentwood, as we felt that such a faraway location was outside the scope of our reach. This was later something that would be regretted and, especially after acquiring Sutcliffe in Cordova Bay, we would begin to entertain the possibility of building farther out of Victoria proper. We pursued two projects out toward/past Brentwood that ended up falling through (Prosser and the Sidney Firehall), and eventually we found a project that we were able to pursue in full. We worked closely with a developer who owned the parcel of land and got it rezoned to allow for our building. The building was designed to house both seniors and member of the work force and was funded through IAH (Investment in Affordable Housing).

330 Goldstream Ave

  • Built in 2021
  • 1BR- 39 // 2BR- 1 (Caretaker style unit) // 3BR – 12 // Studio – 50

At some point we were contacted by the Pacific Centre  Family Services Association; they were a non-profit who was in the process of building a “center for wellbeing” to serve the growing Westshore Community. They had a large piece of land not far from the location of our Colwood building, on which they were building their centre for wellness, and they were interested in having a low-income housing project on the same lot. They sold us the land for a reasonable price, and we got to work building Goldstream. 

On each of the 6 floors there is one 1BR and one studio that is considered an “accessible unit.”