A decision will be reconsidered by Abbotsford council that would have resulted in 20 emergency-shelter beds being discontinued at a supportive-housing facility.
Council voted on Monday (Aug. 28) to have the matter go back to staff for a report that more thoroughly addresses the issue. A second public hearing on the matter will also be held at a later date.
The first public hearing was held July 24, after which council voted against a zoning amendment that would have allowed the 20 emergency beds – known as the Lighhouse Shelter – to be permanently included as part of the former Red Lion Inn and Suites on Pauline Street.
The hotel was purchased in 2021 by BC Housing to provide supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness, and has been operating 30 supportive-housing units and 20 emergency beds.
Council previously approved not immediately enforcing the application zoning bylaws regarding the emergency beds.
This was done to get housing in place quickly and in good faith that BC Housing would apply for the rezoning and the required housing application.
Several residents of the Upper Montrose apartment building – located across from the supportive-housing facility – and local business owners spoke at the public hearing on July 24.
They said that, since the shelter opened, there has been a significant increase in crime in the neighbourhood, at nearby Jubilee Park and in their buildings.
After hearing their stories, all of the councillors – except Dave Sidhu – said they could not support the text amendment to the Historic Downtown Commercial Zone that would have allowed emergency-shelter use to continue in the building.
But under a provision of the Community Charter, a mayor can require council to reconsider a matter within 30 days of a vote.
A staff report to council indicates that Mayor Ross Siemens wrote to the city clerk on Aug. 3, requesting that council reconsider third reading of the bylaw amendment pertaining to the former Red Lion Inn.
At Monday’s meeting, Siemens read from a prepared statement, saying that staff were unable to answer all of council’s questions at the July 24th meeting.
“A reconsideration provides council an opportunity to request a follow-up report from staff to answer our questions, and it will also trigger a new public hearing where council may also hear additional information that may assist us in making a fully informed decision for our community,” he said.
Siemens referred to figures from the last homeless count, which showed there were almost 1,100 individuals experiencing homelessness in the Fraser Valley Regional District.
He said this is a 21 per cent increase over the previous count in 2020 and a 163 per cent increase since the first count 20 years ago.
“There is no question that this is a serious and growing issue for our community, and we need places for people to go,” Siemens said.
BC Housing has said the emergency shelter is full almost every night. In addition to the 20 beds, the shelter provides meals; access to bathrooms, showers and laundry; and access to case workers to help guests connect with community services.
No timeline was given for when the new staff report can be expected to come before council.