Olivia Lewis got down on one knee, looked up at Kindale Developmental Association executive director B Elliot, put forth the plate of chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies, and popped the question:
“Will you give me a place to live?”
A smile broke out across Elliot’s face. Her answer was going to be yes before Lewis asked the magical question.
Even without the cookies, Elliot was going to tell Lewis, a 2012 graduate of W.L. Seaton Secondary, she was a successful applicant for one of the 20 units at Vernon Viridian, an affordable housing project that Kindale will manage in the 3700 block of 24th Avenue in Vernon.
“I just moved in Sept. 20, a Friday, and it was very exciting,” said Lewis during the official opening of the Viridian project Tuesday.
“It was brand new, it smelled nice, looked nice. Everyone involved with it was amazing. The people who live here are going to be so thankful and happy.”
Shaking nervously Tuesday as she told her story to a small crowd of dignitaries, Lewis told how far she has come in her life from being in foster care to now living independently in her new one-bedroom townhouse.
“I am today living on my own with my own car, being able to open my own garage with an opener and having all of that space for myself and decorating it and making it look pretty,” smiled Lewis. “I’m really happy.”
As of Tuesday, 18 of the 20 units had been filled by Kindale.
For Elliot, the joy that people have shown when they’ve seen their units is rewarding.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said of the tenants’ respective stories and reactions.
“The hugs, the kisses, the tears of joy, the stories of new beginnings and what a difference it’s going to make in their lives.”
Elliot said Kindale was showing the available bachelor and two-bedroom units Tuesday night.
“We’re hoping for full occupancy by Nov. 1,” she stated.
The townhouse development consists of eight bachelor, eight one-bedroom and four two-bedroom units.
They all fall under the umbrella of affordable housing, which is fantastic for Annette Sharkey, executive director of the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan.
“To get 20 units of affordable housing into our housing stock is huge,” said Sharkey at Tuesday’s opening.
“What this brings to the people who are going to live here is incredible.”
The capital cost of the Viridian project was just shy of $3 million.
The B.C. government provided more than $2.85 million for the purchase of the land and capital costs while the City of Vernon waived more than $81,300 in development cost charges.
The city and provincial government were represented at Tuesday’s opening by Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky and Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick,