Kelowna residents won’t have a say on where housing for the homeless is built | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna residents won’t have a say on where housing for the homeless is built

Kelowna residents who felt blindsided by City Hall when supportive housings projects were dumped on their neighbourhoods won't have any say over where future projects are built.
February 29, 2020 - 7:30 AM

Kelowna residents aren’t going to get any early consultation about government-funded housing for the homeless in their neighbourhoods.

City staff presented what they billed as an improved public involvement process to city council earlier this week. It details how the City will inform and consult with neighbours about supportive housing projects but only after B.C. Housing has already selected a site and applied for a development permit.

City staff confirmed the public won't be involved before sites are selected.

“Right now, we have many zones where this is an allowable use and supportive housing takes many different forms,” Carla Weaden, the divisional director for the city’s corporate strategic service’s department said. “If it’s not a permitted use, there is a public hearing process.”

One of the biggest complaints raised by opponents of so-called 'wet' supportive housing projects was that they only found out about them after the deals were done.

Only in one of four recent cases was there a public hearing because the land needed to be rezoned. Even then, council has to decide on whether the projects fit in with the neighbourhood. They have no control or say in who lives there or whether residents can use illegal drugs as is allowed in most of these projects. Despite that, most of the discussion at the public hearing was about the people who would live in the building.

That was for a site on Agassiz Road in January 2019. Despite strong public opposition, city council endorsed the project.

Three other projects in Rutland only needed development permits. Those don't allow for public input at a council meeting and only deal with the form and character of the building. It doesn't allow for discussion of who lives there and under what conditions.

One of those, on McCurdy Road, led to a 14,000-signature petition of opposition that enticed council to get B.C. Housing to change some of its policies about drug and alcohol use at that site.

The new process means a neighbourhood consultation committee will be set up before facilities open, not after, as was the case in the past.

But, there are no plans for public input on just where such buildings will be located in the future.

Governments, like developers, typically don't publicly discuss potential land purchases ahead of time because it could impact land values.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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