KELOWNA - If Kelowna neighbourhoods react the same way residents in Vancouver have to the introduction of low-income modular housing for the homeless, expect petitions and placards.
That’s how residents of Marpole in South Vancouver have greeted plans to assemble a 78-unit modular apartment block, according to the Vancouver Sun.
Neighbours around the project say they weren’t adequately consulted and have protested its location near schools and an assisted living facility.
The project begins construction this January on city-owned land, part of 600 Vancouver hopes to install in its response to increasing homelessness there.
It’s Vancouver's second modular project, part of 2,000 overall the province hopes to see installed in the Lower Mainland and other cities in B.C. as a quick response to surging homeless numbers, but Kelowna won’t confirm if it is one of those cities.
City of Kelowna communications manager Tom Wilson said the city will generally apply for any housing funding it qualifies for but cited privacy rules around real estate transactions in refusing to discuss individual applications or even how many there might be.
“We are working with B.C. Housing on possible housing solutions that include, but are not limited to, modular housing,” Wilson said. “We don’t have any more information than that but we will share more information as it becomes available.”
Kelowna has also been responding to increased homelessness, going so far as to hire a social development coordinator to work with local social service agencies and create the Journey Home task force.
Wilson said he couldn’t even confirm the number of housing applications the city might have made, but added any project would be subject to a public engagement process and council debate.
“Definitely some public engagement and it will come to council one way or another,” he said.
He said the city isn’t trying to be secretive about when and where social housing may be developed and doesn’t fear negative neighbourhood reaction.
“What can I say? All real estate negotiations are in camera until the deals are done,” he said. “For lots of different reasons, preparing for neighbourhood engagement, financing, negotiating costs in private."
B.C.’s local government act allows municipalities to hold private meetings where all matters relating to real estate sales and expropriation are discussed.
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