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Housing minister tours Langley seniors housing construction

David Eby got to see progress on the replacement for the burned Birch housing site
Construction on the eight-storey replacement for the three-storey Birch seniors residence, which was lost to fire five years ago, is underway this spring. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

The construction of a new eight-storey building for seniors and people with disabilities is pushing its way up from the foundations and will open next summer, builders say.

B.C. Attorney General and minister responsible for housing David Eby visited the site on Wednesday, April 20 along with local Langley MLAs, builders, and the head of the Langley Lions Housing Society.

In 2017, the aging Birch unit, part of a complex of low-rise seniors housing units in the 5400 block of 203rd Street, burned to the ground. One resident died in the fire.

After fire investigations and demolition, it took until the spring of 2021 before funding and local approvals could be completed, with the City approving a big upgrade on the previous building.

The new replacement building will be a 101-unit, eight-storey structure, that is attached directly to the existing Evergreen Timbers assisted living facility.

It’s to be the first major part of a restructuring and slow, steady replacement of the entire complex of older buildings, most of which date back to the 1970s and 1980s.

Jeanette Dagenais, executive director of the housing society, told Eby that another structure on the site, the Alder, is almost empty, with its tenants moving into other buildings on the site. With some structural issues exacerbated by the soft floodplain soils on the site, the Alder is the next building that will be replaced.

READ MORE: Langley Lions housing project gets go-ahead from City council

The completion of the new Birch replacement, as well as further upgrades and replacements in the future, will allow some changes in how the complex operates, Dagenais noted.

For the Birch replacement, they will expand existing assisted living at the complex by 30 units.

The project is expected to be completed next year.

Having assisted living on the site in the form of Evergreen has allowed many residents to move from their independent living units directly into assisted living.

Dagenais said there has also been an increasing housing need over the years for people with disabilities.

Eventually, the complex will have 981 units, well above the approximately 600 units on the site now.

Eby noted that there are currently about 7,000 units being built or in development by the provincial government, including seniors housing, low income housing, and affordable housing for working families.

Replacement of older housing stock is something that’s taking place here in Langley, along with major projects in Vancouver and Victoria, Eby said.

He noted that a lot of social housing was built in the 1980s and 1990s and is now in need of upgrades or complete replacement.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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