A proposal to rezone land in the downtown area to allow for supportive housing – for homeless or people at-risk of homelessness with support services on site –has once again led to a variety of opinions.
Residents came out on Wednesday night to a public meeting to hear more about the city’s proposal to rezone land, located on the west side of Gladys Avenue, north of George Ferguson Way.
The meeting at Gateway Community Church gave residents a chance to ask questions and submit their opinions.
The meeting focused on the necessary official community plan (OCP) and zoning amendment for the properties. There is currently no proposal or funding in place for an actual project on the site.
When the proposal was announced, city manager George Murray said that due to challenges in the past to supportive housing projects at the rezoning stage, the city is seeking to proactively rezone the sites.
In February of this year, an application from Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) to build a men’s 21-bed supportive housing project at 2048 Montvue Ave. was defeated by council on a tied vote.
Murray said the proposal follows protocol in other cities that rezone land for those types of uses in hopes of getting grants and support from the provincial housing agency BC Housing.
Mary Kauss, who lives near the proposed site, had concerns about the ACS site and continues to have them about the new proposed location, citing the proximity to schools such as Dogwood School on Pine Street.
She said she’s worried about increased police incidents and the impact on property values.
“I didn’t agree with it then either because of it being in the downtown core with the businesses. They put so much money into fixing up the downtown core to bring people in for shopping, but yet,then they want to put something like that there.”
Kauss has already experienced crime at her home – her vehicle has been broken into and a bike has been stolen. She worries about a potential increase.
She said the city needs a rehab centre and a stepping stone apartment for people once they complete rehab.
“Not all of them are going to want to go into this housing anyway, so it’s not going to solve the actual problem of homeless on the streets.”
But Lloyd Walker, on the other side of the downtown area, said he thinks the rezoning should go forward.
“The problem is here (downtown), whether they build it here or elsewhere.”
Walker said it would be better for the homeless to have a roof over their heads and meals to eat than leaving them on the streets. He tries to volunteer doing cleanup in the downtown, and “if you have a conversation with these people some are quite amazing,” he said.
“We need to start doing something. Let’s not do nothing.”
The total BC Assessment value of the properties to be rezoned is currently $876,300, according to Katherine Treloar, the city’s director of communications. However, she said it’s important to note that the current assessed value is tied to the existing zoning of the properties, and that the city does not anticipate all the properties would need to be used for a housing project.
A representative for BC Housing told The News the announcement from the city is a positive step and once the rezoning is completed, they will “examine the options that are available.”
When asked if the money available for the ACS project – BC Housing was set to provide about $2.5 million in capital and $15 million in operating funds over 60 years – has yet been designated to another project, the agency responded:
“Since Abbotsford city council rejected Abbotsford Community Services’ proposal for 20 units of supportive housing for men who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, the money that would have been invested in that project remains with BC Housing. No decision has been made on how the funds will be distributed.”
The rezoning proposal will go to council for consideration this month.