Path through the forest

Cortes Community Housing: Tiny but Important steps forward

The Cortes Housing Society has made some important steps towards making the Rainbow Ridge affordable housing project shovel ready. They received a $99,000 grant for the associated trail network and are close to closing the sale of their Gregg Road property. They have applied for two more grants, the final report on housing insecurity in our area is now available and the new plans for the Rainbow Ridge affordable housing project are about to be unveiled.

Image credit: Cortes Housing Society press release

“I’ll keep you posted as far as our town hall meeting for around the middle of November, when we want to share the new site plans, the dwelling plans, and the landscape plan,” said Executive Director Sandra Wood.

The Cortes Housing Society, Cortes Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA) and Southern Cortes Community Association (SCCA) jointly received a $99,000 grant from the Community Foundations of Canada Healthy Communities Initiative.

“The plan is to connect those three properties more efficiently and beautifully so that people can walk from the Health Centre through the Rainbow Ridge property into the CCEDA property next door (the Village Commons) and ultimately to and from Mansons Hall. It’s an east west corridor connection that doesn’t exist right now and is a way to keep people off of Beasley Road if they want to have a more pleasant forest experience. We’ll create a more vibrant village core and have more connection between our three adjacent properties,” explained Wood. 

Some of the money will be used to renovate the old deck on Manson’s Hall, which is starting to show signs of wear and doesn’t have ramp access for people with mobility challenges. The SCCA is going to make improvements to their outdoor spaces.

Map of trail network
Satellite image of Rainbow Ridge’s new trail system – Cortes Community Housing Society

Wood added, “We’re hoping that there’ll be enough money, as well, to make improvements on the cemetery road end of the existing trail at the South end of the Rainbow Ridge property. We’d really like to reroute that to higher ground so that it’s not so wet in the winter and to better connect with the Siskin Forest Trail head, so that people don’t get lost when they’re trying to get from Siskin Forest into Rainbow Ridge.”

The contract for this work has not yet been awarded, but Wood said there were a number of qualified contractors on Cortes Island. 

They may use gravel in sections that have drainage issues, but it is an expensive resource and most of the trail will be finished with wood chips. 

Wood said a lot of this will come from the trees and tree limbs that will be removed. 

“The timing of that healthy community’s initiative couldn’t be better in that finally the rains have arrived on Cortes. That’s going to reduce the fire risk, as far as dropping trees for the new trail route.  It also means that the bird migration is almost over, as far as them heading south for the winter. Our plan always was to do the trail work through the winter months, so that we would not impact the bird nesting. Our plan is to have that finished by April 1, 2023, before they come back looking to build their new nests,” explained Wood.

Earlier this year, she informed Cortes Currents the Cortes Housing Society had been given a property on the corner of Gregg and Sutil Point Roads. They intend to sell this plot to raise capital for the Rainbow Ridge project. A prospective buyer has come forward and agreed to pay the $200,000 asking price. 

“We are hoping that the sale is going to close this week. It’s between the lawyers right now, and the paperwork is hopefully being completed. I should be able to tell you who the new owner is next week,” said Wood.

The Cortes Housing Society has also applied for two other grants.

They have not yet received word about a three-year grant of $50,000 per year for organizations that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. This comes through BC’s Recovery and Resiliency Fund, and is administered by the Vancouver Foundation. 

Sandra Wood, Executive Director of the Cortes Community Housing Society – submitted photo

“It’s really related to Covid and to non-profits like ours who have not been able to host big fundraising events over the past two years. We’ve definitely been impacted by COVID on generating additional funding for the Rainbow Ridge Project. We’ll see whether we get selected or not probably within the next month, but that would really help to provide us with some core funding just to keep our staff and operations and the running of the society going because the launching of the construction is taking us longer than we’d hoped,” explained Wood.

The Cortes Housing Society and CCEDA have partnered in an application to the Natural Infrastructure Fund. This is a Canadian government fund for  projects that use natural or hybrid approaches to protect the natural environment. Wood explained that the money would be used to build storm water ponds, bioswale channels, creeks and natural ways to handle storm water runoff.  

“The plan would be to capture rain that is traveling over the surface and slow it down basically so that it can settle any sediments that are captured in that water stream and also to give the plants, trees and grass time to absorb as many of the nutrients as possible before that water leaves our property.  I think the Canadian government is realizing there’s a lot of ways we can do that without using concrete and culverts. This is a way to try and work with nature to deal with  storm events. We’re pretty excited to be partnering with CCEDA and implementing that as a solution for both our properties.” 

The Cortes Community Housing Society was one of the key stakeholders in the recently released report on the island’s ‘unsheltered’ and ‘at risk’ populations. 110 Cortes Island residents participated in the survey and reported 159 people living in untenable conditions. These range from 11 people who were homeless during 2021, to those who not afford their rent or mortgage payments, to people whose homes lacked heat, indoor plumbing, or water.

The soon to be replaced old design for Rainbow Ridge – courtesy Cortes Community Housing Society

“It represents a large portion of people who are already living on Cortes who responded to that survey because they’re feeling like their housing is unstable or unaffordable or maybe not suitable for their family size or their family dynamics. It really gives us a better picture of who we’re trying to help with the Rainbow Ridge Project and the first 24 town homes that we’re going to build,” explained Wood. “It is studies and surveys like these that really help us prove to the funding agencies and the government departments on how critical the need is here in a small community like Cortes and how expensive it is to develop in a remote rural location.” 

Top image credit: Existing Rainbow Ridge trail – Photo by Roy L Hales

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