Some residents of the Greenecourt affordable housing complex in Sechelt are saying the anticipated removal of a smoking shelter and proposed property-wide ban on smoking is putting them in a bind.
“It is more than just a smoking hut,” said Lori Stare, a resident of Greenecourt who regularly uses the shelter. “I’m not asking if I can come into their suite and have a cigarette. I’m asking to be given a place.”
The wooden shelter, located in front of the Greenecourt residences on Ocean Avenue and across from Hackett Park, must be removed to accommodate the expansion of the 139-unit affordable rental housing development, expected to begin in September, according to Robert Allen, president of the Lions Housing Society, which owns and operates Greenecourt.
Once it is removed, the society plans to prohibit smoking on the property.
The hut was offered to the District of Sechelt, Sunshine Coast Regional District and Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden, all of which declined it. The shelter is expected to be removed and demolished in two to three weeks.
Allen said the decision to remove the shelter was announced at the society’s annual general meeting in June. “We got a loud round of applause from the tenants that attended the annual general meeting. They were happy to see it go,” he said.
The hut, which was built several years ago by society members, was never meant to be permanent, and there are no plans to accommodate residents who smoke once it’s removed, according to Allen, who said the decision to ban smoking on the property was made in consideration of the health of the residents.
According to Greenecourt’s current no-smoking policy, included with the lease, Greenecourt is designated as a “smoke-free complex,” meaning smoking is not permitted in any buildings and within seven metres of common areas such as stairwells, playgrounds and patios.
Debbie Ferguson, director and chair of the society’s building committee, said the revised no-smoking policy is not yet official. “At this point the policy is our intent,” she said, adding that the society is taking up the matter with the Residential Tenancy Branch to ensure proper procedure is followed.
“But the shelter is coming down regardless because it’s in the way of construction, and we have no land to put it on,” Ferguson said.
Those who use the hut would like to see a new designated smoking area created on the property. “We are not trying to be unreasonable,” Stare told Coast Reporter. “We know we can’t stay right there, but we’d like to go somewhere.”
Sechelt’s smoking bylaw prohibits smoking within 7.5 metres of district-owned or operated outdoor spaces, such as Hackett Park, as well as places of public assembly and transit stops and shelters, giving smoking residents few nearby options protected from inclement weather.
Stare said the shelter is a gathering place for seniors who live there, some of whom have mobility issues, including herself who uses a wheelchair. “There are people that come out there [who] may not leave their building otherwise,” she said.
“I don’t want it to sound like I’m not grateful because they give me a roof over my head at a price I can afford,” said Stare. “We just want a little shelter from the weather, that’s all.”