EDITORIAL: Social housing needs open minds

The City of Nanaimo is missing a perfect opportunity to set the final social housing development down the right path if it doesn’t take the lead in getting good, correct information to area residents.

The City of Nanaimo is missing a perfect opportunity to set the final social housing development down the right path if it doesn’t take the lead in getting good, correct information to area residents.

With a location announced on Uplands Road for the promised north-end site, it’s incumbent upon the city to avoid the same furor of confusion and misinformation that erupted earlier this year over similar projects in the hospital area.

While city hall is not required to hold a public hearing, as it was with the Bowen Road site due to rezoning changes, it should plan full information sessions.

And it should do so quickly.

The previous situation exploded because the city did not take the initiative to inform residents about its Housing First plan, and why the harm reduction approach that strategy is built upon is so important and effective.

In fact, the Housing First strategy itself promises “early engagement, in advance of any announcements of sites or funding” to facilitate community acceptance.

Council needs its own social planning experts and those of the Vancouver Island Health Authority, which is a partner in the strategy, to clearly present the facts to residents who will be new neighbours to this development.

Those people need to be given a forum to learn as much as they can and get their questions answered.

It is unlikely such efforts will quell all opposition to the social housing initiative, but it is likely to ease neighbourhood worries and reduce the chance of fear-mongering and the spread of misinformation.

Without question, there will be residents unhappy about the location who refuse to welcome it with open arms.

But it’s possible, if the city takes its opportunity to properly inform residents, that more people will at least accept the necessity of social housing with open minds.

The City of Nanaimo is missing a perfect opportunity to set the final social housing development down the right path if it doesn’t take the lead in getting good, correct information to area residents.

With a location announced on Uplands Road for the promised north-end site, it’s incumbent upon the city to avoid the same furor of confusion and misinformation that erupted earlier this year over similar projects in the hospital area.

While city hall is not required to hold a public hearing, as it was with the Bowen Road site due to rezoning changes, it should plan full information sessions.

And it should do so quickly.

The previous situation exploded because the city did not take the initiative to inform residents about its Housing First plan, and why the harm reduction approach that strategy is built upon is so important and effective.

In fact, the Housing First strategy itself promises “early engagement, in advance of any announcements of sites or funding” to facilitate community acceptance.

Council needs its own social planning experts and those of the Vancouver Island Health Authority, which is a partner in the strategy, to clearly present the facts to residents who will be new neighbours to this development.

Those people need to be given a forum to learn as much as they can and get their questions answered.

It is unlikely such efforts will quell all opposition to the social housing initiative, but it is likely to ease neighbourhood worries and reduce the chance of fear-mongering and the spread of misinformation.

Without question, there will be residents unhappy about the location who refuse to welcome it with open arms.

But it’s possible, if the city takes its opportunity to properly inform residents, that more people will at least accept the necessity of social housing with open minds.

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