A four-storey, 52-studio unit supportive housing development on Agassiz Road received the seal of approval by Kelowna city council Monday, but not without thoughtful consideration.
City of Kelowna councillors voted “yes” to the form and character of the BC Housing Midtown Urban Centre project, due to its high quality finishes thorough landscaping detail that creates privacy and adds security; its overall appearance is cohesive with the surrounding neighbourhood.
However, coming on the heels of ongoing protests in the Rutland community over a different BC Housing project to be run by the Canadian Mental Health Association of Kelowna (CMHA) on McCurdy Road, councillors were sensitive with their votes.
Coun. Charlie Hodge said the vote was a battle as he was originally opposed to the Agassiz Road site.
“I could find an excuse not to support it with a protest vote,” he said, in acknowledgement of a protest vote he made against the McCurdy Road supportive housing project. “But, that’s all it would be.”
“This is a really well-done, thought-out design,” he said. “I may not have a choice in the building that is going there and why it’s there, but I do have a choice to say whether or not I like the look. And I like the look.”
Coun. Loyal Wooldridge said he recognizes the anger and concern some residents are feeling about the lack of support services for those in the community that are facing addiction and seeking recovery.
“Asking our minister of municipal affairs to stop funding housing would bring us backwards,” he said.
Instead, Wooldridge urged residents to pass their concerns onto the ministry of health and the ministry of mental health and addictions to seek additional funding for recovery services.
“The opioid crisis is a health crisis and there needs to be political will at a provincial, federal and municipal levels to put partisan politics aside and work together to implement long-term solutions,” he said.
“We won’t solve anything with name calling or attack campaigns based on shame and social division,” Wooldridge said. “We can be critical of policy, past and present, but signs that are calling people junkies and comments saying we should put bullets in homeless people’s heads will not achieve solutions for anyone on either side of this debate.”
Coun. Brad Sieben echoed his remarks from only a week prior to when the McCurdy Road project was approved.
“I think it’s absolutely incumbent on BC Housing and the operator to make sure that this does integreate well into the community,” Coun. Sieben said.