Mary Sandoval, Sam Gutierrez and David Gutierrez from Chawathil offer a blessing for the work that’s been done at the new site of an affordable housing project on Ryder Street. The project replaces the Martin Brothers Funeral Home and Crematorium, and will be open later this year. (Jessica Peters/ Hope Standard)

Day to honour funeral home’s past held at construction site in Hope

New affordable housing project includes 40 units to be opened early 2020

It was a day to honour the past and celebrate the future.

A small gathering took place on the former site of the Martin Brothers Funeral Home and Crematorium on Ryder Street on Friday, in which guests paid reverence to the special meaning the site has for many Hope residents. The building is gone and all that remains of the former business is a hint of its circular driveway that would once greet guests for memorial services.

The site’s sale was finalized in March 2018, and the building’s demolition was completed several weeks ago.

But with that ending comes a new beginning. The site has been chosen for a 40-unit affordable housing building, and site preparations are underway. The project is being spearheaded by Anhart Homes, a Vancouver-based development company, and has the support of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

Before moving further forward with the project, those behind the project wanted to have this small ceremony. About 30 people attended, gathering on the graveled site, with boulders and heavy machinery in the background.

“We want to honour the past use of the property as a funeral home and acknowledge that it has been a place for remembrance and mourning,” Marcie Good, communications coordinator for Anhart Homes said.

They invited members of the Chawathil First Nations to come, in hopes they would “honour the spirits that haven’t left” the area. And while the ceremony was attended by three members of the band, they chose to sing and drum a blessing for the work done by those present instead.

“What we would like to do is another ceremony without everybody here.” David Gutierrez told the crowd, on advice of an elder. “When it comes to our First Nations culture there is a real sensitivity to the work that we do. The elder talked to me and said we’re going to do another work but without all of you here, to help those who are still here. In our culture we believe that when someone passes to the other side, they don’t always know where they are, they don’t know where to go.”

He was joined by his son Sam, as well as elder Mary Sandoval.

“This is a very meaningful day for us,” Keith Wiebe said. “It goes along with the vision we have for ourselves to be a part of the community in Hope.”

Hope has become their “gold standard” from now on, he added, for the ease in business partnerships they’ve encountered here. One of those Hope people they’ve worked with is their own employee, Crystal Wiebe, who was born and raised here in Hope.

“Today is important for me,” she said. “I know this site has a lot of significance to people in Hope. We are here to honour the past and celebrate what’s coming.”

What’s coming is a CMHC-approved affordable housing plan that will encompass 40 units. Thirty one of them will be studio apartments, six will be two-bedroom suites, and three will be three-bedroom suits. There will also be space for amenities for residents. Currently, the plan is to have the building sit on the north side of the lot, with parking space between the building and the church to south.

“There is a significant housing shortage in Hope,” Wiebe said, and as the company was looking for potential places to build this housing project, Hope eventually became part of the conversation.

“This was listed, and it was the right price,” Wiebe said, looking around the lot.

Affordable housing is (check this fact) regulated by CMHC and the standard is 90 per cent of the market price. But what it really comes down to is what the applicant is able to pay, she explained.

They will be taking applications beginning in September or October, Wiebe says, and while the site is being prepared, the modular structure is being built off site. The site could be ready for residents by spring next year.

Anhart Community Housing is a community-contribution company owned by Anhart Community Housing Society, a charitable organization based in Vancouver. They have owned and operated affordable rental housing since 2002.

While larger cities are commonly considered for affordable housing projects, smaller towns like Hope have an equal need for its residents, Wiebe said.

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