A large window and warm light illuminate the bedroom in Peter Matheson’s new apartment. (Rich Matheson/Submitted)

Inside Grand Forks’ newest apartments at Raven Place

Peter Matheson’s living space quadrupled when he moved into his one-bedroom last December

Submitted by Peter Matheson

What’s the difference between a tiny-house-on-wheels and a one-bedroom apartment at Raven Place? The answer: about 375 square feet.

I’ve recently moved out of my tiny house and into Raven Place, the new affordable housing apartments on 19th Street in Grand Forks. I’m finding it to be absolutely awesome, easily equal in quality and design to the nicest apartments I’ve seen in Vancouver and Kelowna.

Now, just over a month in, I’d like to share my current experience and correct some of the misunderstandings I’ve heard.

First and foremost, this is not a supportive housing project. Rather, this is the local result of BC Housing’s social mandate to provide affordable rental housing to a broad range of renters – and this could not have happened without the hard work and dedication of Boundary Family Services Society (BFSS).

Since moving into Raven Place, I have experienced a well-planned and well-managed development that has become home to a widely diverse community that includes families, seniors, low-income locals, the flood-affected and residents requiring fully-accessible living spaces. Some apartments are also assigned to be rented at typical Grand Forks market prices.

These rentals are available to qualifying residents wanting the simplicity of apartment living and those choosing to downsize from their larger homes – or in my case, quadruple their living space.

Raven Place has become home to folks who appreciate quality construction within a quiet, residential neighbourhood close to sports facilities, dining and shopping.

The market-housing component of Raven Place is considered necessary to ensure the long-term financial and social sustainability of Raven Place. A strong commitment to social diversity is demonstrated by the inclusion of one, two and three-bedroom units aimed at providing attractive housing choices to couples and singles of all ages and young families with children.

Read more: A quick guide to applying to affordable housing in Grand Forks

Read more: Grand Forks affordable housing units ready for occupancy

I love walking outside in the morning to the laughter of the kids enjoying their fantasy adventures tunnelling in the humongous snow piles and their excited invitations for me to participate.

Having lived in Grand Forks for over 40 years, I seem to know most of the residents who have moved in, so it’s a social pleasure just walking through the lobby or parking lot.

For the safety and comfort of all residents, BFSS management requires the prior understanding and signature of each renter regarding a variety of agreements and conditions of occupancy, including a Good Neighbour Policy, a pet policy and a Residential Tenancy Agreement which, if violated, can be considered just cause for immediate termination of tenancy.

I have heard nothing but deep gratitude and high praise from the occupants I’ve spoken with and the vibe around here is happy and respectful. The only complaint I’ve heard since my arrival at Raven Place is a lack of recycling facilities on the property, resulting in all refuse going unsorted into bins for disposal. I’m hoping that will soon change.

Over the past 20 years, I have enjoyed exploring different ways that I can be self-sufficient and environmentally responsible – an exploration that led me to build my 125-square foot tiny-house-on-wheels. I’ve lived happily in that snug and creative space for the last three years.

As an architectural designer and building contractor, I have built many houses in the Boundary and I had never considered renting an apartment. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that a new apartment in Raven Place might actually be superior to my tiny house in its life-cycle carbon footprint.

My first walk-through convinced me that my environmental values were well represented.

One example is that each renter has their own high-efficiency heat pump and can individually adjust the comfort of their heating and air-conditioning needs. Green values are further demonstrated through low-E gas-filled windows, low-flush toilets and the exclusive use of LED lighting throughout the building.

Washer and dryer hookups are available in each apartment with free Energy Star laundry facilities located on each floor – for me it’s conveniently located just outside my door.

The townhomes and the larger apartments have energy-efficient laundry appliances installed in each unit.

My apartment comes standard with a spacious kitchen that includes a ‘sensi-temp technology’ range, an Energy-Star fridge, a MAAX bathtub surround/shower, spacious closets and an individual private deck.

Smoking is not allowed anywhere inside the building or anywhere on the grounds, except under two canopied, outdoor seating areas.

Lobby entry is through key-card or intercom. An extensive video security system and an abundance of fire sprinklers and detectors protect the occupants.

I enjoy my 20-minute walk into town each morning and I’m getting to know the people I meet along the way.

I wonder if the allure of the internet has negatively impacted our face-to-face encounters, and maybe added to some feelings of isolation, division and fear in our neighbourhoods. But, I’ve discovered that personal interactions happen more often for me now that I’m living at Raven Place and I’m appreciating the sense of community that this environment affords.

Various gatherings are arranged by staff and residents, morning coffee is planned in the large common room and casual social opportunities are always available in the various outdoor seating, recreational and socializing areas.

Within the grounds there are communal raised garden beds, picnic areas, sun shelters, benches, secure bike racks, and a large expanse of lawn where the kids enjoy a safe place to play.

Other features include an elevator, convenient ramp entries, a dedicated electric scooter room with plug-ins, excellent sound insulation between units and an expansive paved parking area that is convenient and well-lighted.

I have no more need to shovel snow, mow lawns or spend the day on maintenance and repairs either – friendly and knowledgeable staff are on hand for general maintenance, janitorial and repairs.

Considering the current costs of home insurances, property taxes, city services, home and yard maintenance, household repairs and the yard machinery associated with home ownership, rental at Raven Place makes a lot of sense in my view.

Despite my new apartment being considerably more spacious and luxurious than my previous tiny-house-on-wheels, it still affords a carbon footprint that I consider environmentally responsible and equally important, provides me more free time for community connection and volunteer opportunities.

Although the successful results of Raven Place will not end the difficulty that so many are experiencing in finding adequate and suitable housing in Grand Forks, it will at least relieve the immediate rental pressures for some of our residents.

Now, while slowly adapting to my expanded living space, I’m enjoying the relaxed goodwill around me and am feeling happily settled and content in my new home.

I appreciate this opportunity to express my appreciation to the City, BC Housing and Boundary Family Services Society for providing well-managed, safe and sustainable housing to the residents of Grand Forks.

Peter Matheson is a resident of Raven Place, the newest apartment development in Grand Forks.

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Peter Matheson added a mobile island to his kitchen to add more flexibility to the space. (Rich Matheson/Submitted)

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