Boundary social housing project going forward

NANAIMO – About a hundred people attended an information session on the Boundary Crescent social housing project last week.

About 100 people attended an information session on the Boundary Crescent social housing project last week.

Construction is expected to begin this summer on a four-storey, 41-unit supportive housing project at 1597 Boundary Cres., to be developed and operated by three local non-profit organizations: Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society, Columbian Centre Society and Haven Society.

Nanaimo Affordable Housing will build, own and maintain the building, Columbian Centre will provide 24-hour housing support workers and Haven will provide an additional layer of services on the floor of the building dedicated to women fleeing violent situations.

At the open house on Wednesday, residents were shown the building designs and all three organizations made themselves available for questions.

Jim Spinelli, Nanaimo Affordable Housing executive director, said of the roughly 100 people who showed up throughout the four-hour information session, he didn’t hear from many who were extremely opposed to the project – most simply seemed curious to find out more.

“I’m sure there’s still people who would still rather not have it in their neighbourhood,” he said. “But on the other hand, there was not a lot of animosity from the crowd. I think they were curious to see what was going to happen.”

The intent is to provide safe, secure and stable housing for single adults who are homeless or at risk of being homeless who would benefit from the services provided as well as single women fleeing domestic or street violence.

While there will be tenants with mental health issues and/or addiction issues, the facility has round-the-clock staffing and tenants are expected to abide by strict rules, said Spinelli.

“They know that if they are good tenants and they pay their rent, they will be able to stay there,” he said, adding that people who don’t want to make use of the services or are into criminal activities don’t generally want to stay in a place where staff know what they are doing 24 hours a day.

“Usually when people get heavy into street drugs, they get evicted,” said Spinelli. “Everybody will be on a fixed income.”

Jim Goldsack, acting president of the Hospital Area Neighbourhood Association, said on the whole, he thinks the neighbourhood is now happy with the plans.

While the association was originally one of the most vocal opponents, he believes it started turning around when a portion of the land was sold to R.W. Wall Ltd. to develop a medical centre that includes lots of parking – one of the major issues in the area is a lack of parking.

Goldsack said residents were provided with detailed answers to all their questions at the information session.

“They weren’t vague answers, they were very pointed answers and that explained it perfectly,” he said. “It made a whole lot of difference to the neighbourhood with that open house. These people know what they’re doing.”

Residents now have a very different picture of who is going to live there, Goldsack added.

The Boundary social housing project is part of a partnership between the province and the city to help address homelessness.

Spinelli said the association is close to finalizing the design and the project is expected to cost between $8 and $9 million.

“We hope to be in the ground sometime this summer and hopefully open by the fall of 2014,” he said.