Women’s housing project ‘needed now more than ever,’ public meeting hears

Neighbourhood security, water, and how tenants will be chosen were the top questions during an online public information session on the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society’s (SCCSS) proposed housing project in Sechelt.

Councillors in Sechelt gave first reading in April to the zoning amendments needed for SCCSS to build the 34-unit housing complex at its site at 5638 Inlet Ave.

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The SCCSS project already meets the Official Community Plan criteria for that part of Sechelt, and the need for a zoning amendment was triggered by the six-storey height of the building and the extra density.

The $18-million complex is intended to provide affordable, long-term housing for women and children and will have the financial backing of BC Housing. The society is also planning a capital campaign that could potentially raise $4 million to $6 million of that $18-million total.

The SCCSS application was the first in Sechelt to have an information session since provincial health authorities imposed restrictions that made it impossible to hold in-person meetings.

SCCSS executive director Catherine Leach opened the May 20 meeting by saying that the society had considered putting the project on pause during the pandemic, but decided against it.

“COVID-19 has highlighted for us how important it is now more than ever for our community to have safe, affordable and dignified housing for women and children, and spaces for our community to access the support and connection they need in good times and difficult times,” Leach said.

“We also recognize that this project will play an important role in restarting the economy and creating opportunities for employment, in the aftermath of COVID-19.”

On the question of how tenants will be chosen, Leach said a full list of qualifications for prospective tenants will be posted about nine months before the move-in date.

“What I can tell you right now is that qualifications include: you have to meet the annual income limits set up by the province; … you need to be female; you need to be able to live independently; you need to live on the Sunshine Coast, or if you lived on the Sunshine Coast and you had to leave to find housing but your connections, your family are here, you also qualify,” explained Leach. “And we are looking for people who are interested in living here who want to create community.”

Leach was also asked about how the non-residential space would be used. She said there are no plans to have commercial or retail tenants and that it would be used strictly for the Community Services Society as office space and to host the various programs it delivers.

A question was also raised about security concerns in the neighbourhood, especially with respect to the existing community garden, which will be replaced with a new garden as part of the project.

“Part of the beauty of this project is that it doesn’t just provide affordable housing and support programs, but it also is an opportunity to revitalize this community and increase the safety,” she said.

Leach also said SCCSS is working with existing neighbours to the site, including RainCity Housing, which manages both a supportive housing complex and a homeless shelter that border on the Community Services property, on “what the challenges are and how we all work together to resolve them.”

“I anticipate that this will be a vibrant safe space for this community, and those gardens that are in this development will be well cared for, and it will be a safe place for people to garden,” she said.

There were some questions about water supply – for both residents and for maintaining the gardens – including one about whether the society envisioned using reclaimed water from Sechelt’s Water Resource Centre for the gardens. 

Members of the design team said they haven’t looked at the idea of reclaimed water, but several options were being considered to reduce the use of potable water.

The next step in the process will be a public hearing, which may also have to be held online.

If the zoning amendments are approved, the Community Services Society is hoping to start construction sometime in 2021.

 

 

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