An artist’s rendering of what the proposed supportive housing building in Hope would look like. (BC Housing)

BC Housing puts in rezoning application for Hope supportive housing build

Proposed 52-unit building a ‘contentious’ development, Mayor prefers pushing public hearing to fall

BC Housing has submitted an application to rezone lots it owns along Old Hope Princeton Way, a step towards their plans to build a 52-unit supportive housing development at the site. Any public hearing about this development will likely have to wait until the fall, says Mayor Peter Robb.

With restrictions as they are, Robb said he has advised staff at the district to hold off on scheduling a hearing until the fall. A ‘contentious’ hearing such as this one would require filling the upper floor of the recreation centre, in a pre-COVID-19 reality, or as things stand now it could look like several evenings of public hearings with physical distancing measures in place and per-registration Robb added.

“So I’m wrestling and working with staff on how we manage that. So that’s why I’m suggesting we hold off until the fall,” he said.

The application BC Housing has submitted involves rezoning a property at Old Hope Princeton Way from highway commercial to comprehensive development, director of community development Jas Gill confirmed. The application concerns 650, 660 and 670 Old Hope Princeton Way, which have been consolidated into one parcel under the 650 address.

If BC Housing’s plans go through the public hearing process and are supported by council, it would result in the shelter currently in operation on the site becoming a permanent 15-bed shelter and the construction of a four-storey, 52 unit supportive housing building on the adjacent part of the lot.

Supportive housing involves people living in a self-contained studio with access to 24-hour staff and support services on the site. Tenants go through an assessment process and once accepted, pay rent for their homes in the building.

The need exists in the community, says BC Housing, as they estimate around 50 people are experiencing homelessness in Hope including at least six camps where people reside. These numbers do not include people who are precariously housed, which could include people who are at risk of eviction or live in housing which is crowded, in a state of disrepair or unaffordable.

The Hope and Area Transition Society is partnering with BC Housing on the development.

The proposed plans have not been without controversy, with residents voicing concerns at information meetings held in December as well as at a BC Housing presentation to council in January.

One concern raised is the size of the development and the fear that people from other communities would be ‘sent’ to Hope to live there. BC Housing’s development director Naomi Brunemeyer said this isn’t the case, as the 52 units would be for local people. “They are residents of Hope that are being prioritized,” she said at a January presentation. “I want that to be really clear.”

Others have voiced opposition to the facility being a ‘wet facility’, where tenants aren’t expected to abstain from alcohol or drugs. BC Housing said such low barrier access is critical to the success of supportive housing, which allows people the autonomy and privacy within their own units while adhering to certain rules and having access to supports.

Robb said he hasn’t heard anything from BC Housing about needing to speed this process up, nor where it is on their priority list.

“I would prefer to wait to the fall and maybe they’ll come up with some creative other ways to do a public hearing or things get relaxed a little bit more,” Robb said.

BC Housing confirmed they have submitted the rezoning application and have received the district’s request for the public hearings to be put on hold until the fall. The agency said more details would be shared publicly once they have a better idea of the timetable for this proposed development.

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