A supportive housing project in the south end will not be moving ahead, at least not at its proposed location.
Nanaimo city council, at its meeting Monday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, voted 7-2 to withdraw from a partnership to build a 44-unit project at 1425 Cranberry Rd.
Most councillors said they were opposed to moving forward on the project due to concerns about the proposed site, which was close to both the Chase River Boys and Girls Club and Chase River Elementary School.
BREAKING: Supportive housing project won’t be going ahead at 1425 Cranberry. Council votes to direct staff to withdraw from proposed partnership at that location but continue to try to work with B.C. Housing. #Nanaimo
— Nanaimo Bulletin (@NanaimoBulletin) February 20, 2018
Two weeks ago, council had asked city staff to look into other possible locations for the supportive housing facility, which was to be a partnership with B.C. Housing and operator Pacifica Housing. But Dale Lindsay, director of community development, said no other sites were suitable to meet the timelines of B.C. Housing’s Rapid Response to Homelessness modular housing program.
“It results in a number of these sites not being eligible simply because they would require separate processes … official community plan amendments or rezoning,” he said.
Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said one open house wasn’t enough community engagement and she didn’t think the city should allow itself to be pushed by provincial government timelines, but her first concern was the site.
“Were this another location, I would be voting for it; however, I have grave concerns about it being so close to a school,” she said.
Coun. Ian Thorpe agreed there wasn’t enough consultation and he didn’t support the location, Coun. Jerry Hong said he would like to see supportive housing somewhere with more amenities and services and Coun. Bill Bestwick said “the siting is extremely problematic for a host of reasons.”
Coun. Jim Kipp acknowledged that the project was rushed and said he didn’t support the location, but mentioned too that he was “disappointed that people would think we would put kids at risk without any thought.”
Councillors Diane Brennan and Gord Fuller voted against withdrawing from the Cranberry Road supportive housing project. Brennan said it would have been an opportunity to “alleviate suffering and misery” for some people, and also address some of the problems caused by homelessness downtown.
“It’s being demanded that we find solutions, and this offer comes, a rapid response. That’s what we’ve asked for,” she said. “Every community in B.C. has asked government to speed up your response. Speed up our ability to build places for homeless people.”
Coun. Bill Yoachim was the one who made the motion to withdraw from the project and continue to try to work with B.C. Housing through the same program.
“There has to be a place somewhere and if there’s a will, there’s a way…” he said. “We can do this.”
RELATED: Chase River residents oppose supportive housing proposal
RELATED: City will look at other locations for supportive housing
Christina Scott, chairwoman of Chase River Elementary’s parent advisory council, was one of three people who spoke against the supportive housing project at Monday’s meeting.
“It’s certainly what we hoped for. We hoped that the responsible decision would be made,” she told the News Bulletin after the vote. “And I do like that the motion was made that they would still like to pursue it, because I do believe that this is an important issue. It was just that it was the location that was not ideal.”