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Hope is at least a year away from seeing supportive housing in the community

Few options for district to push province, says Mayor
Protesters marched in support of BC Housing’s plans to build supportive housing in Hope on Dec. 4, 2020. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard file)

By Emelie Peacock

Special to The Standard

As Hope grapples with an immediate housing crisis, provincial plans for supportive housing in the community could take up to a year or more to come to fruition.

After speaking with Minister Responsible for Housing David Eby, Hope Mayor Peter Robb said the tentative timeline indicated by the province for opening a new shelter and supportive housing in Hope is the end of 2022 or beginning of 2023. Yet as of today the district has not seen any plans or word about a final site from BC Housing, the Crown corporation in charge of subsidized housing across the province.

In a statement, BC Housing said work is ongoing to secure an “appropriate site for supportive housing in Hope” yet a timeline is not yet in place for when a new site would be secured.

The corporation would have to go through another rezoning process, including public hearings, to get any new plans approved. Another route would be for the province to invoke paramountcy, in effect overruling council’s decision and going ahead with their housing plans, yet there is no indication of this happening and this has never been raised by the province in this case Robb said. In November 2020 after extensive public hearings, Hope council voted 4-to-1 to reject BC Housing’s application to rezone 650 Old Hope Princeton Way to house an emergency shelter and a 52-unit supportive housing building on the site.

“They’ve been dragging their feet, I feel,” Robb said of the province. “I don’t know if it’s a lack of funding, they’re busy doing other communities because we turned them down, I don’t know what the reasoning is, I couldn’t really get a straight answer.”

This is not a feasible deadline as Hope is facing immediate housing needs, said Gerry Dyble who heads up the Hope and Area Transition Society that runs Hope’s emergency shelter as contractors for BC Housing. Shelter manager Brian Dodd added that some long-term shelter residents are eagerly awaiting news about supportive housing, with three residents having lived at the shelter for over 900 days each. “That’s pushing three years of being homeless and nowhere else to go in our community,” Dodd said. “And these are people that generally would have ended up in our supported housing.”

While he voted in favour of BC Housing’s supportive housing plans to ensure people did not find themselves on the streets, Coun. Scott Medlock said the location of the site was “not ideal.” He would like to see BC Housing find a site that suits their needs and the needs of the community.

Proactive communication and education about their plans will be critical to address concerns, he added, including the concerns around what supports will come along with supportive housing. “A lot of the concerns were ‘What supports? How is this possible? Who’s going to pay for those?’,” he said.

Robb agreed that there has been a gap in information from BC Housing to the public.

“More education is needed at their next proposal,” Medlock said. “And hopefully we’ll be post pandemic at that point so there’ll be a bit more engagement from the community to actually find out from the horse’s mouth, what the actual proposal is and what it entails.”

BC Housing stated that an announcement will be made once a site is secured and the corporation will “continue to work with the District and neighbours to address this urgent need.”