Mike Welte, president of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, has encouraged businesses in the downtown to speak out against a housing project for homeless men at a public hearing on Feb. 3.
A letter this week from the chamber president has called on members to reject Abbotsford Community Services’ (ACS) plan to build a 20-bed supportive housing facility in the downtown core.
Welte stated the chamber opposes the project based on the fact that it would require the land, at 2408 Montvue Ave., to be taken out of the city’s C7 zone, which prohibits supportive recovery in the core.
He said the city created the zone to help create economic growth “in an area plagued by undesirable and illegal activities.”
The chamber has previously stated that it supports the idea of “housing-first” initiatives for addressing homelessness, but wants stakeholders to consider a different location.
The letter states the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) – which has opposed the project since it was announced last summer – has turned down businesses in the past that don’t fit within the bylaw to encourage the ongoing revitalization of the area.
The ADBA has repeatedly stated that they also support housing for the homeless, but placing the proposal in the C7 zone would violate the existing commitment by the city to reserve the downtown for businesses.
Welte stated the announcement of the project has already resulted in business uncertainty and further vacancy in an area that “has reached its saturation of social service agencies.”
Janna Dieleman, director of community relations at ACS, said the chamber is entitled to their opinion and ACS respects their right to share it with members, but added that the project is responding to a need in the community that has been identified by the city and the province.
“Ultimately, both sides of the argument will be presented at the public hearing and we trust council to make whatever decision they believe is best for the entire community.”
The public hearing will be held at the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium at city hall, at 7 p.m. on Feb. 3.