The City of Vancouver is building a combined firehall and social housing project (above), and Abbotsford may follow suit. (City of Vancouver image)

New Abbotsford firehall could include affordable housing

Abbotsford considering replicating housing/firehall projects being built in Vancouver and elsewhere

Abbotsford’s next downtown fire hall could also include multiple floors of affordable housing.

Mayor Henry Braun says that as the city plans to replace its current firehall on West Railway Street, just south of the historic downtown, officials are looking at a plan that would include building affordable housing on top of a new building.

“We are looking at partnering with senior levels of government [to build] a firehall on the bottom and maybe a floor or two of housing on top,” he said.

Similar projects have been built elsewhere. In 2016, Vancouver broke ground on a new firehall that will be topped with four floors of affordable housing. The YWCA is partnering with the city to manage 31 units of below-market rental housing for single mothers and their kids.

“We need some more housing in the downtown, because that’s where people want to hang out,” Braun said.

The project is one of the new priorities included in council’s updated strategic plan, which was passed last week.

Fire chief Don Beer said combining a housing project with a new firehall makes sense given the city’s push for more density in its core areas. And having a firehall that is staffed around the clock right below a housing facility could also bring its own benefits.

“There is a level of safety that comes along with a 24/7 operation,” he said. “I think that people would feel security to live nearby.”

Beer said the department is also looking at other possible partners in a new building, but most work will come following council passing a new budget in the months to come.

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The four-year strategic plan adopted last week is largely the same as the one that guided the work of the last council term. That is unsurprising, given there is only one new face – Coun. Bruce Banman – around the council table..

The plan again revolves around “four cornerstones”: vibrant economy, complete community, organizational alignment and fiscal discipline. Principles that underlie those categories are also mostly unchanged.

The plan also includes new priorities – although most focus on the development of strategies and internal plans that may affect the city’s long-term future but won’t likely make an immediate impact on residents’ day-to-day lives.

But a handful of priorities could make themselves felt in the near future. Those include plans for developing a bylaw enforcement strategy, as well as the firehall/social housing project endeavour.

The city also wants to build a 25-year financial plan to guide the rollout of $1.5 billion worth of infrastructure projects suggested in new master plans.

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