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Housing proposal for homeless men moves to public hearing

The ACS proposal to provide housing for 20 homeless men will go to public hearing on Feb. 3.  - File photo
The ACS proposal to provide housing for 20 homeless men will go to public hearing on Feb. 3.
— image credit: File photo

A controversial housing project for homeless men in Abbotsford's downtown core will go to public hearing on Feb. 3.

Council approved first and second reading of Abbotsford Community Services' (ACS) proposal to build a 20-unit facility for homeless men on Monday.

Though councillors expressed potential concerns about the project, they voted to move the project to public hearing so the views of the community can be heard.

The facility would be located at 2408 Montvue Ave, across from ACS's main location, and would provide housing for 20 men who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, for up to two years.

The project is low-barrier, meaning the men would not have to be drug- and alcohol-free when they enter, though they would have to enter an agreement to address the issues that contributed to their homelessness.

But the site is located in the city's downtown C7 zone, which has a set of bylaws that prohibit certain uses including "emergency shelter use and supportive recovery use," and would have to be rezoned for the project to move forward.

The Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) has opposed the project, stating that the zone was designed to protect downtown businesses, and rezoning would create a dangerous precedent.

Coun. Henry Braun said he was happy to finally see the project in front of council, saying that "I think this has dragged on a little too long."

Coun. John Smith said he has many concerns with the project and potentially "tampering" with the C7 zoning, but he wanted the project to move to public hearing.

Mayor Bruce Banman said he predicts a "marathon public hearing" when the issue is discussed on Feb. 3, but the views of the public will help inform council's decision.

The public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium.

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