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Council denies request to reconsider housing proposal for homeless men

Coun. Henry Braun said reconsideration would have given the city more time to consider its options for housing for the homeless
Supporters of the ACS housing proposal hold a canvas full of signatures at Monday's council meeting.

Council denied a request to reconsider its recent decision on a rezoning proposal that would allow a 20-bed housing facility for homeless men in the downtown core.

At Monday’s council meeting, Coun. Henry Braun called for the Feb. 17 decision on Abbotsford Community Services’ (ACS) provincially-funded proposal to be reconsidered and brought back to public hearing.

At the previous council meeting, a tie vote defeated the ACS low-barrier housing project planned for 2408 Montvue Ave, which BC Housing would fund with more than $15 million over 60 years.

The proposed location had caused controversy in the downtown, as it was in the C7 zone, which specifically prohibits supportive recovery use.

Coun. Braun could not elaborate to council on his reasons for bringing back the issue, as there can be no debate on a motion to reconsider a previous decision.

Councillors voted the same way as they did on the rezoning proposal, with Mayor Bruce Banman, and Couns. John Smith, Bill MacGregor and Les Barkman opposed to reconsidering, and Couns. Braun, Patricia Ross, Moe Gill and Dave Loewen in favour.

The motion to reconsider the proposal failed.

After the meeting, Braun said he brought the motion back because he wanted to have another option for council.

At the Feb. 17 meeting, MacGregor said that he agreed that supportive housing is needed, but due to the community opposition and a need to respect downtown businesses, the possibility of another location must be explored.

He said that at an earlier Fraser Valley Regional District meeting, where Fraser Health announced plans for a seniors’ campus of care facility and a community health centre on the former MSA Hospital lands on McCallum Road, representatives were asked whether the remaining land could be used for supportive housing. He said they acknowledged the possibility.

Braun said that reconsidering the decision would give city staff about 90 days before the motion came back for another vote, giving them time to try and come up with a solution to keep the BC Housing funding in the community and see if the MSA hospital site was a viable option.

“My fear is that what we have done now is put the final nail in the coffin. If the hospital site doesn’t work out, I believe this money is gone.”

Rod Santiago, executive director of ACS, said he knew that Braun was doing what he could to “see if anything could be pulled out of the fire.”

Santiago said he had hoped that the councillors who voted against the project would be “willing to see that the MSA site was not a reality,” and reconsider their vote.

Santiago said when it comes to the MSA site, “the facts are obvious.”

He said that when the development is done, there will be 500 seniors living on that site, which is also near to multiple schools. He said it is hard to believe there would not be opposition to that location.

“We need housing now. There hasn’t been any discussion of the MSA site. The site does not belong to the city, it does not belong to BC Housing, it does not belong to us.”