Imagine dealing with a serious illness when your worried you can’t pay your rent or your living in really deplorable conditions.
“As a society we need to accept that we need to be providing good basic affordable housing for people so that they can stay well, advance in their carers or live in dignity,” said Kaye Melliship, Executive Director at the Greater Victoria Housing Society (GVHS).
That’s exactly why GVHS was established–to fight and make affordable, rental housing available.
In 1956, GHVS was formed in response to the lack of affordable housing and the emergence of poverty amongst seniors. It then started building and managing affordable rental housing for seniors.
“Our mission is to provide affordable rental housing–it’s pretty simple,” said Melliship.
“Victoria is such an intersecting and dynamic community. It’s not easy to get all the approvals we need and to win people over about the projects we need, but it makes it really challenging and interesting,” Melliship said.
“It’s also hard to create a passion around [the affordable housing crisis] … trying to get people to imagine what it would be like if they did not have security around their housing” said Melliship.
“It’s difficult to stabilize your health or become more self-sufficient when every penny is going into housing,” Melliship said.
“Imagine your kids having to move schools every couple months because you had to chase the cheapest apartment,” said Melliship
In 2008, GVHS had an opportunity to take over a building that had family housing, and it has not looked back.
In the last five years, GVHS has grown to also include housing for low income earners.
“Those workers are really struggling to find somewhere to live close to work so we’re building workforce housing to meet the need,” said Melliship.
When Melliship joined the society 12 years ago, it had seven buildings. Her main mandate was to grow the organization–and grow she did.
GVHS now provides 15 properties in the City of Victoria, Colwood, Esquimalt and Saanich with a total of 765 homes, including 582 units for seniors or adults with disabilities, 71 family units, and 112 workforce housing units.
“It’s about what were doing that makes it so wonderful,” Melliship said.
“Knowing that we’re providing affordable, rental housing is such a foundation of what people need in order to have lives of dignity and to be successful and safe.”
Though it has big barriers to overcome, including access to land and funding, GHVS plans to continue to grow. Its current goal is to add eight new buildings to its portfolio.
“It’s very rewarding knowing that what we’re all doing here is meeting that really basic need in our community,” Melliship said.
“I could come and manage an operation that makes widgets but it wouldn’t be the same.”