A land-use restriction at 6025 Uplands Dr. required a provincial amendment before Nanaimo’s proposed north-end social housing project could get the go ahead.
Part of the provincial Housing First initiative, the property, between Nanaimo Seniors Village and Nanaimo Fire Rescue Station No. 3 on Hammond Bay Road, could see up to 40 units built to house the city’s homeless.
When Housing First was introduced in 2008, Nanaimo required 160 units to house the city’s homeless. The program provides shelter and access to programs for those in need, but also allows residents to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while staying there, though drugs and alcohol may or may not be allowed on the premises.
As part of the program, the city is required to provide the land for the facilities.
The Uplands Drive/Hammond Bay Road property was originally part of a parcel of land granted to the city by the province in 1984 for the Vancouver Island Regional Library head office. The grant contained a restriction that the land be used for library purposes only.
Bill Corsan, the city’s real estate manager, said when the city wanted to subdivide the parcel to build Fire Station 3, it approached the B.C. government and the restriction was amended to include use for library and firefhall purposes.
“As we were working on the supportive housing project, we went back to the provincial government in March of this year and said ‘[Housing First] is your project, we would like to use the land you’ve given us for supportive housing’,” said Corsan. “So they amended the Crown grant to say that parcel could now be used for a library, firehall and supportive housing.”
The decision to approach the government on the amendment was done in camera and Coun. Fred Pattje said council had to be careful not to damage any portion of the memorandum of understanding it had with B.C. Housing.
“The first step was for B.C. Housing to let us know we were still within the rules of the MOU and then it is up to them to announce what and when and how,” he said. “There was absolutely nothing underhanded of doing it in camera because that is the way we had to start the process.”
Pattje said B.C. Housing approved the location, but the announcement, originally scheduled for June, got hung up for months.
“It’s an unfortunate circumstance, I absolutely agree this leads people to believe that we are doing things in secret,” he said. “But I can tell you once B.C. Housing announced the memorandum of understanding was ammended, we as a city were on the street at Uplands going house to house the same day.
“The lack of having a chance to get it announced between March and three weeks ago … nobody can really blame the city on that.”
Parksville-Qualicum Liberal MLA Ron Cantelon declined to comment on the issue.