Stop complaining about supportive housing projects in Kelowna, mayor says | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Stop complaining about supportive housing projects in Kelowna, mayor says

June 18, 2019 - 3:04 PM

KELOWNA - While Kelowna city councillors acknowledged yesterday, June 17, that there is going to be strong opposition to the city’s latest supportive housing project for the homeless, Mayor Colin Basran took a shot at critics.

“When it comes to dealing with the really heavy, number one priority in our community, collaboration is the only way we’re going to solve this,” he told council during discussion of a new project on McCurdy Road.

“The time to complain is over. We have a plan and I applaud those who are getting behind the plan and helping us to achieve that. I want to thank the developer. I want to thank the Knights of Columbus. I want to thank the province of British Columbia and B.C. Housing for all getting behind this plan and doing something about it, as opposed to just complaining. So, I really want to thank you for being part of the solution and not just adding to the problem.”

One of those critics was MLA Norm Letnick, who sent a letter to the provincial government when the project was announced last week, asking them to put it on hold.

The land in question, at 130 McCurdy Road near Rutland Road, is currently home to the Knights of Columbus hall.

In 2017, following a heated public hearing, the land was rezoned for a proposed housing project for people recovering from addictions. Funding for that project fell though so the land was sold to Culos Developments which is building the supportive housing project that will be managed by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Since the land has already been rezoned, all council could decide on was the form and character of the building, not who is going to live in it.

“There is a flaw in the process in my mind, in the fact that things can change in the ownership or in the design, or guidelines and the perception of how a building will be run or not run,” Coun. Charlie Hodge said. “It goes through a public hearing process and then things change. It seems to me that we have a lack of ability to, perhaps, address issues that may have had an impact on the (rezoning) decisions being made.

He was the only councillor who voted against the development permit application.

Coun. Mohini Singh, on the other hand, had voted against the rezoning but changed her mind after doing research on how homelessness has become such a big issue in Kelowna, and in B.C.

She pointed the finger at the provincial government for closing the Riverview mental institution in 2012.

“The government of the day had thought it would be better for our citizens who were struggling with mental health issues to be housed in smaller projects across the province which is why, here we are today," she said. “When Riverview was closed down, experts did say at the time that this is going to be a problem for British Columbia.

“At the time, when the first (rezoning) project came in, I thought it was too big for that little piece of land. Today, when I look at this, I think, this is necessary for our province, for our community. I look at the building, what was presented today. It’s going to get a lot of opposition. People are worried about it. But we have to find homes for people who are homeless.

She and other councillors stressed the need for the operator to be “extremely mindful of safety and security.”

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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