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Construction of affordable housing unit for seniors underway

Demolition of the Evangel Church in progress. The building was built in 1987 as an extension to the church for recreational and social activities. It is being demolished to make way for the building of 10 affordable housing units for seniors.
Demolition of the Evangel Church in progress. The building was built in 1987 as an extension to the church for recreational and social activities. It is being demolished to make way for the building of 10 affordable housing units for seniors.

GANDER, NL — You may notice an unfamiliar sight as you walk past Evangel Church on Elizabeth Drive. The remains of what was once the church hall is now a mound of rubble.

Some members of the lead team giving oversight to the affordable housing project. Pictured (from left) Pastor Mike Freake, Robert Paddock, Brian Parson, Rodney Osmond, Terry Kennedy and Pastor Ralph Benson. Missing from photo is Warren Strong, chair of the oversight committee.

For 30 years the church hall was filled with many happy memories such as wedding receptions, kid’s activities, and social gatherings. The hall has been removed to make way for a 10-unit affordable seniors housing development.
According to Evangel Church Board secretary Robert Paddock, the facility will be a grade level entry building, with eight two-bedroom units, a one-bedroom unit and a one-bedroom accessible unit. It is slated for completion in April 2018.
Paddock said the church received a conditional offer of $1.25 million to build these new units, after applying to the 2016 Non-Profit Sector (Seniors Housing) Proposal Call for the Affordable Housing Initiative (AHI), a Federal economic stimulus program, delivered by the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation (NLHC).
The call for the provision of affordable housing in Gander is not new.  The Town commissioned an assessment study, which was published in January of 2015.  The report highlighted that low and moderate-income earners were vulnerable to economic changes to meet their housing needs.
"The church property was put up for sale five years ago, and there were no acceptable offers,” Paddock said. “We heard from people who wanted to buy low and convert the property, but their intent was not to provide affordable housing."

With the lack of sale for the church property, the timeline for the proposal call, according to Paddock, was not by chance, but rather, providential.
After three years of listing, with no offers for purchase, a proposal call was put out to the non-profit sector, by the AHI through the NLHC, to provide affordable housing for seniors. 

"We, as a church made the decision to apply for the grant,” he said. “With the grant money, and as a charity, with the help of many volunteers to perform maintenance such as grass cutting and snow clearing, this project is doable for us."
The feedback from the community has been positive. In the development planning stages, electrical, mechanical and architectural firms have "sharpened their pencils and given us really good deals."
"Financial hardship is a concern for a large portion of the community.  As a church, we feel the need to provide some of the basic needs like housing — it is a basic need,” Paddock said.
Pastor Ralph Benson adds, "“Evangel, along with all of our churches, has been dealing with many situations of people in desperate need for affordable housing. We are stepping up to the plate to address the situation. This is only a drop in the bucket in addressing the huge need in the town of Gander.”
The building of these units will provide some relief to low and moderate-income earners, and in itself, hope, to create more happy memories.

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