Residents will get to say their piece this fall about BC Housing’s plan to build supportive housing in Hope.
The housing agency is going through the process to get permission to construct a 52-unit building at 650 Old Hope Princeton Way. This includes public hearings on Nov. 3 and 4, organized with various safety protocols during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Councillors voted in support of a first and second reading of two proposed bylaw amendments, a step which is necessary to start the process whereby the community’s opinions will be heard and councillors will discuss and vote on BC Housing’s plans in future council meetings.
“It’s an application that will test the community,” said director of community development Jas Gill. BC Housing’s plan has already had strong opposition from some residents at previous public meetings, including concerns around the size of the building as well as the building being a low barrier form of housing which wouldn’t require people to refrain from consuming alcohol or other substances within their units.
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.
Supportive housing is one form of housing along a ‘housing continuum’ with emergency shelter on one end and homeownership on the other.
It is a form of housing that is affordable – people go through an assessment process and pay rent once they become tenants. This housing also includes on-site supports for tenants.
BC Housing’s planned four-storey building, made up of self-contained studios, will have supports including a “meal program, laundry services (and) referral to services in the community,” district documents stated. Referrals could be to local healthcare, counselling, employment and life skills or educational services.
If council votes in favour of BC Housing’s plans, it would also make permanent the emergency shelter which is already in operation at the site. The shelter began operation in November 2018 before a rezoning of the property occurred and, according to the district, an application to rezone was received in March 2020.
A rezoning is required from highway commercial, the current zone, to a site-specific zone allowing for shelter and supportive housing on the lot.
District documents note that BC Housing’s plans align with the district’s goals as set out in the official community plan. The district has a stated goal of including a diversity of housing options to meet community needs within residential areas.
To achieve this goal, the district’s role includes “(developing) emergency, transitional, supportive and assisted housing by working independently and/or in partnership with other levels of government” the official community plan states.
Public hearings are set for Nov. 3 and 4 at the Hope Legion hall. Due to COVID-19 being a persistent reality, Mayor Peter Robb said the meetings will involve residents pre-registering and appearing in five-minute intervals.
This may involve lining up outside, Robb said, assuring that the process will be “as transparent as possible” and the organizers “will accommodate as best we can, for as long as it takes.”
Ahead of the public hearings, Mayor Robb will read all written submissions into the public record on Nov. 2.
This will likely be broadcast via the district’s Facebook page, as council meetings have been, unless pandemic restrictions ease.
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