BC Housing isn’t saying if it will try for another site after Sechelt’s decision to deny a lease on district-owned land at Ebbtide Street and Trail Avenue for a temporary homeless shelter.
The agency’s proposal to convert the Upper Deck Guest House into a homeless shelter, initially intended as a stopgap measure while the Ebbtide plan was under consideration, goes to public hearing next week.
Although the decision to deny the Ebbtide lease was made at a closed-door meeting in November, BC Housing was only informed of the decision after the Dec. 6 council meeting where the in-camera motion was released.
Asked for comment, BC Housing would only confirm for Coast Reporter that it was going ahead with the Upper Deck proposal and a supportive housing project it wants to build on Hightide Avenue.
Speaking on Coast TV’s Talk to Your Local Government Dec. 7, acting mayor Alice Lutes explained the reasons behind the decision.
“[It was] pretty well the feedback from the community, and not just the neighbours. That particular piece of property has been promised as a park,” Lutes said. “That area itself has absorbed a lot of social-type housing in their community and we feel that enough’s enough for that neighbourhood and we need to have a broader discussion around a permanent location and not another temporary location.”
Mayor Bruce Milne said this week he agrees with that explanation of council’s thinking on the issue.
“It was really about the many different factors to consider when looking at what a healthy community is, the broader context and not just the shelter itself or the location itself,” Milne said.
As well as rejecting BC Housing’s request, Sechelt council’s motion said it “acknowledges the seriousness of the lack of housing in the community and the need for emergency shelter and resolves to address the issue through a full public process to be completed by summer 2018.”
Milne said there has to be a discussion about what the district’s role should be and then council and staff will work with the community on identifying possible locations for a future shelter.
“Council really wants to allow for a community process to talk about where it [could go],” Milne said. “This is not a new issue, and yet we’ve never talked about it. There’s nothing in our OCPs [official community plans], there’s nothing in anything that we have, that says this is a real need and here’s how the community in Sechelt thinks it should be addressed.”
Milne acknowledges there could also be a role for other local governments in that discussion, although the original motivation was “Sechelt council dealing with Sechelt council concerns and our community.”
Milne also said the district has not yet received a formal application from BC Housing for the Hightide project, but he’s hoping it comes forward soon.
At the Dec. 4 public meeting on the Upper Deck proposal, BC Housing’s Craig Crawford urged the public to get behind the Hightide project as well as the current applications.
“We will be applying for a significant density increase [at Hightide], and the objective there is to build self-contained affordable housing, which this community clearly needs. Community support for the density and use on that property would be greatly appreciated,” said Crawford.