Vernon councillor withdraws controversial supportive housing motion | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon councillor withdraws controversial supportive housing motion

February 22, 2021 - 5:13 PM

Vernon city councillor Scott Anderson has removed a controversial motion that called for a moratorium on supportive housing projects in Vernon until a complete audit on B.C. Housing had taken place.

Coun. Anderson's motion could have jeopardized more than 170 homes currently in various stages of development by B.C. Housing.

The councillor said he was withdrawing the motion because it was "too broad in scope" and included B.C. Housing initiatives that he was in favour of.

By withdrawing his motion at the beginning of council's Feb. 22 meeting, Coun. Anderson missed his opportunity to explain why it had been withdrawn at the meeting. He did, however, send out a media release moments after the motion had been withdrawn explaining why.

In the release Coun. Anderson said his motion should have only including "so-called supportive housing" and "didn't make that clear enough."

The withdrawn motion called for an independent audit of B.C. Housing-funded supportive housing projects in Vernon.

The move follows Pentiction council's motion that asked the provincial government to audit supportive housing projects in the city after it heard strong opposition from the public.

Coun. Anderson's motion also asked that B.C. Housing put a moratorium on further supportive housing projects in Vernon until the audit was completed and had been made public.

While there's no knowing if the councillor's motion would have passed – or whether the provincial government would have paid any notice to it – but a moratorium on supportive housing projects would jeopardize housing projects currently in various stages of development.

B.C. Housing is currently working on 41 homes in Vernon for people with middle incomes, along with 86 homes for people with low to moderate incomes, including families, seniors and Indigenous peoples. A further 46 beds are also in the works for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Coun. Anderson's motion asked the audit to determine what addiction and psychiatric services were currently offered at B.C. Housing-funded supportive housing projects in Vernon and to include wait times as well as "accurate and measurable" outcomes of patients in the existing projects.

While the motion never even got to the table that didn't stop the not-for-profit organization Turning Points Collaborative, which runs several B.C. Housing projects, from issuing a statement that said suspending future supportive housing would put lives at risk and any audit would be expensive and disruptive.

"An audit is typically suggested when there is an issue of concern. Here there is not. Homelessness on our streets is down. Crime on our streets is down. Why question something that is working so well?" reads the statement from Turning Points.

Coun. Anderson clearly doesn't agree things are working well.

"Are we actually helping people deal with their issues or are we simply warehousing them? If we're trying to help them, are we actually helping?" Coun. Anderson said in the statement.

Coun. Anderson says in his statement he will bring back a more focused motion in the future.

For an issue that never even got to the table it still managed to garner comment from Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming.

In a rare move a couple of hours after the motion was withdrawn the mayor released a media statement saying he’d received more than 90 letters in support of B.C. Housing.

“As Mayor of Vernon, the last thing I want to see is a moratorium on supportive housing projects,” he said in the statement. “Any delays in supportive housing projects would have a significant impact on downtown and area businesses and the wider community. Without these new supportive housing units, we are likely to see a surge in new homeless individuals and added pressure on the Bylaw Department, the RCMP, and our healthcare system to manage and respond to increased numbers of people sleeping outside, who would otherwise be housed in the new units.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 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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