Freedom found in Vernon affordable housing complex

When Robert Rossignol moved into Thunderbird Manor, the freedom he and his wife previously had was restored.

Rossignol, a three-time cancer survivor, is wheelchair bound and his wife Cheryl is his caregiver. They had lived in a one-bedroom apartment in their price range, but it fell far short of what they needed.

“It wasn’t accessible enough with my chair, and it made getting in and out a lot harder,” Robert said Tuesday, at the official opening of Thunderbird Manor the building he moved into last December. “Here, at least, I can go outside and ride around and whatnot –it’s easy.”

He said Cheryl is similarly freed up.

“Now she can get out and go someplace and not have to worry about me, you know,” he said, adding there are even nearby shops he can go to on his own.

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The second phase of Thunderbird Manor is owned and operated by Vernon Native Housing Society. The new five-storey building provides one, two, three and four-bedroom homes for Indigenous Peoples with moderate and low incomes. Nine of the homes are fully accessible for people living with disabilities. The remaining 26 homes are adaptable, accommodating older residents who wish to continue living in their homes as they age.

Click to play video: 'Affordable rental homes saved in Vernon'

Affordable rental homes saved in Vernon

The project  contributes to Vernon’s affordable housing supply, which mayor Victor Cummings said has doubled from 500 since 2017.

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“Thanks to the work that’s been going on since 2017, we now have about 1,000 units,” Cummings said.

He said that around 2,000 to 3,000 would be ideal, but with the help of the province and the Vernon Native Housing Society, they’re inching closer to that goal.

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It is, of course, a challenge given current circumstances.

“We have interest rates going up, we have global inflation, that’s putting huge pressure on our ability to provide more housing.” BC Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said during the announcement.

“Many people talk about how we can address housing and how we can get more housing available for people or communities. Now, many people have different ideas, but one thing I think everyone understands is that you can only address affordability with investments from the government into affordable housing. You cannot address it just by leaving it to the private sector alone.”

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Kahlon said that the social dynamic in the new building was good to see in person.

“Seeing kids playing in the playground also fills me with lots of hope for this particular project,” he said, adding that the rents range from $250 a month to $1,000 a month.

“Having a mix of units, having young people being able to live with some of our elders, having young kids being on site …that’s the sign of a healthy community, and I think that’s just absolutely fantastic.”

Three of the one-bedroom homes will be reserved for young people, from 16 to 19, who live independently. The homes, which received funding under the Ministry of Children and Family Development Services Agreement, are intended to support young people in the community, while offering additional counselling resources.

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“Thunderbird Manor – Phase 2 is owned and operated by Vernon Native Housing Society. It is situated next door to Thunderbird Manor – Phase 1,” said Valerie Chiba, board president, Vernon Native Housing Society. “Combined, these 73 units provide housing for Indigenous families, seniors and Elders, youth, and individuals and families with mobility challenges. We are so pleased to add these stunning buildings to our housing programs.”

Thunderbird Manor – Phase 2 is owned and operated by Vernon Native Housing Society. It is situated next to the first phase of Thunderbird Manor, which provides 35 rental homes for Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous people in the community, and is close to amenities, services and transit.

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