With any controversial development or project, it seems inevitable that some opponents will complain of not being informed or consulted earlier.
In the case of the Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) homeless supportive housing proposal, official notice was issued in June 2013. That timing was determined by BC Housing, which lifts the confidentiality lid when final details are in place and projects such as this are ready to proceed to the public process.
Considering it took the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association and other opponents mere days after the announcement to issue vehement protest over the plan and eventually convince four civic politicians to vote against it, we wonder what difference earlier notification would have made, other than ACS possibly having fewer detailed answers to specific questions.
Some would say time to find an alternate location, yet the provincial funding was not open-ended. It was specifically approved for this proposal, which relied on land being donated by ACS. Another site would have been a return to square one and more delay, which is where the issue now sits.
After council’s tie vote killed the housing project last week, the land came off the table, and we fear so has the money.
A future alternative will require city-donated property and a different, more expensive operational budget, since another location is not going to be situated next to the support services required by the shelter occupants, available at ACS.
The city was involved in the ACS proposal for years, beginning with a 2008 memorandum of understanding with the provincial government to create supportive housing. There were no surprises for the city here, and time was provided for public consultation as per BC Housing’s criteria. The process unfolded as it did with two previous similar facilities.
Sources indicate Fraser Health response to the hope of relocating this project on the former MSA Hospital property on McCallum Road is not encouraging. Neither are recent words from BC Housing, which thinly veil exasperation with the City of Abbotsford.
Closing the door on the ACS homeless housing proposal was an unfortunate decision resulting in more inaction – the impact of which will be seen and felt for years.