The City of Kelowna’s temporary outdoor shelter on Recreation Avenue. (File)

The City of Kelowna’s temporary outdoor shelter on Recreation Avenue. (File)

New supportive housing project for Kelowna’s homeless skips usual rezoning process

The project contains 38 modular housing units and is situated near the city-sanctioned camp on Recreation Avenue

New supportive housing options are on the way to those experiencing homelessness in Kelowna — without the need for the usual municipal rezoning from city council.

On May 20, the province announced it is building 38 modular housing units at 1055 and 1063 Ellis Street — nearby the current city-sanctioned camp on Recreation Avenue.

“The need for safe and secure housing has never been clearer, and these new homes will give more people a place to call their own,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “We are working quickly and urgently with our partners to protect all British Columbians during the COVID-19 crisis, including our province’s most vulnerable — because when people have housing, it’s good for everyone in the community.”

The city and the province are working to expedite the building process and removing the requirement of municipal rezoning. The property, previously listed for sale at nearly $2 million, is now set to be leased to the province by the City of Kelowna for 10 years. the property will go through the municipal rezoning process if the lease is extended beyond that.

“Homelessness is an evolving, dynamic crisis in our community, and these kinds of partnerships go a long way towards creating solutions,” said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran. “This is a strategic land investment that will not only create much-needed solutions in the short term but also has long-term potential with a future land use designation for multi-storey residential housing. In addition to being close to downtown, this property is ideally located adjacent to existing municipal park space and could fulfil many different civic objectives after expiry of the lease.”

The three-storey modular apartment building will include 38 self-contained studio units with private washrooms, showers and kitchens. The building will also include a commercial kitchen, dining and lounge areas, storage and amenity space, laundry and a medical room.

“To provide people with the support and services they need to begin their recovery journey, they first need a place to call home,” said Stephanie Ball, executive director of the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society. “This is a welcome addition to the over 100 units of housing with supports already planned to come on stream over the next two years as we work to meet the goals of Kelowna’s five-year plan to address homelessness.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association Kelowna will operate the new housing. It will provide residents with on-site staff and support services at all hours. This includes meal programs, life and employment skills training, health and wellness support services and opportunities for volunteer work.

“Access to safe and stable housing is a crucial first step needed for anyone who experiences homelessness so they can begin to get their feet back under them,” said Shelagh Turner, executive director, CMHA Kelowna. “We are proud to be the operators of this building and our other supportive housing in Kelowna so we can be there to help end the cycle of homelessness.”

The province is providing $9.5 million to the project, as well as an annual operating subsidy of $1.3 million.

Site preparation work will start in June, with construction expected to be complete in fall 2020.

READ MORE: Third person charged in attack on homeless man in downtown Kelowna

READ MORE: Government response to people experiencing homelessness in Kelowna

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