When a developer purchases land on which to construct a new property, there is often one or more existing residences that remain vacant until torn down to make room for new ones. Rather than going this conventional route, Richmond builder Balandra Development has chosen a more philanthropic approach by turning old residences into temporary housing for women and children fleeing domestic violence.
“Typically, when we buy a property the house is still fairly liveable. Many times we are waiting for construction to start for a subdivision. This could take anywhere from eight to 12 months depending on the project, and it could be as long as 18 months,” said Balandra president Clive Alladin, whose company specializes in family dwellings.
“When we get these properties, as long as they’re liveable, we provide them to Chimo Community Services. They in turn can use them to help women coming out of abusive situations through interim housing until they get on their feet.”
The initial such undertaking occurred two years ago, with an immigrant family on Williams Road in Richmond. A woman on disability, who had limited English language skills and four children, experienced domestic violence found Chimo that in turn arranged for their stay in one of Balandra’s homes. The community organization also got in touch with various charities and individuals to furnish the interior.
“That was the first candidate — she lived in our house for about eight months and we charged her $1 a month,” he said.
Chimo program coordinator Neena Randawa said this type of arrangement addresses a gap in services right now, and in fact is being used by BC Housing. The crown corporation offers emergency living accommodations to women in need, but only for a limited time period.
“This city has no second stage housing. Often, clients leave domestic abuse situations and have a good experience at the transition home in our community for one month,” she says, adding many still require further support before they are completely ready to live independently. That’s where Alladin and his firm come in. He said he hopes that more local developers will join in, although the process in getting everything set up wasn’t an easy one, as was the case of the aforementioned family on Williams Road.
“Of course I’d love to see more builders donating houses awaiting redevelopment, but if no one can get through all this red tape, it’s no wonder more of us aren’t stepping up to the plate.