While many people seemed to have stepped up over the past couple of weeks to badmouth the District of Hope council for turning down the proposed 52-unit low barrier housing project on Old Hope Princeton Way, I believe they made the right decision given the circumstances. They were faced with a proposal for a rezoning that not only was in conflict with the Official Community Plan for that area, but would also add significant additional costs to the community in the form of extra policing, health and social services that are already overextended in Hope.
BC Housing appears to have either purchased the property without properly checking out the existing zoning or felt they could ignore the existing rules and just force the development onto the community. Their disregard for following local requirements was demonstrated by their creation of the existing shelter without the necessary approvals or permits from the District of Hope.
Their proposed development was greatly oversized for both the property they proposed to put it on and the community in general, when you compare the relative scale of similar developments versus population in other communities. It is likely that, once finished, the facility would not even be paying basic property taxes.
If this type of proposal had involved an industrial or commercial development with the same zoning and additional cost issues, it would likely have been denied by district council in a similar matter with little complaint from the community. So, rather than berating municipal politicians as being heartless and uncaring, perhaps it is time for everybody to accept that this particular proposal was poorly planned and inappropriate for many reasons.
BC Housing and the various groups backing social housing need to sit down with municipal leaders and come up with a proposal that is proportional in size to Hope’s population and ability to provide support services, and find a site that will work within our community plan. We do need more social housing of all types, but it needs to come with solid funding support for the necessary mental health, addiction treatment and other services required. Simply warehousing homeless people next to one of the busiest roads in town is not a suitable solution. The issue of mental illness and drug addictions need to be addressed by the provincial government, not local communities with services that are already significantly overburdened.
BC Housing needs to work with the community to find a mutually agreeable solution, not try to bully us into a poorly planned development, so the government can have another photo op and leave the community to deal with the aftermath.