A total of 14,547 people have signed a petition against allowing tenants of a BC Housing project now under construction on McCurdy Road in Rutland access to legal drug and alcohol use. (Contributed)

Minister rejects Rutland petition against low-barrier housing project

More than 14,000 people signed the petition to change the use of the housing facility

B.C’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has rejected a petition with more than 14,547 signatures opposing a low-barrier housing project at 130 McCurdy Rd., which would allow legal drug and alcohol use among its tenants.

A total of 2,800 pages of signatures were collected for the petition over the course of two weeks. Last Sunday, the petition was handed over to Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MLA Norm Letnick who presented it to the B.C. Legislature on Monday after question period.

In an emailed statement to the media, Selina Robinson, the minister of municipal affairs and housing, acknowledged the community’s concerns, but stood by her decision to build the facility.

“The entire community benefits when people have safe, supportive homes. While I can understand the anxiety felt by some people in the community, our experience opening dozens of these buildings around the province have shown that they deliver positive outcomes for both the residents and the community as a whole,” wrote Robinson.

Letnik said he was disappointed in the minister’s decision.

“As the voice for my constituency in Victoria, I believe that the petition should be respected and that the minister or B.C. Housing should meet with residents and come up with a solution that would meet the needs of everyone,” said Letnik.

Audra Boudreau, who helped organize the petition, was not immediately available for comment.

She had previously expressed her hopes the petition would persuade the province to change its decision and use the facility to house other people in vulnerable situations, such as those on low-incomes, seniors or students.

“It is my sincere hope that the B.C. government changes their course, at least for the facilities here in Rutland,” said Boudreau.

“If they want to continue down this road to nowhere that shreds billions of taxpayer dollars each year, at least have the decency to place these facilities nowhere near other large vulnerable populations and family-oriented neighbourhoods that will be harmed in the process.

“I hope they hear us.”

READ MORE: 14,147 signatures hard for Kelowna mayor to ignore: organizer

In July, Boudreau led the charge in collecting 14,147 signatures over a two-week period to protest of the initial McCurdy housing concept.

Boudreau then took the signatures to Kelowna city council, leading Coun. Charlie Hodge to put forward a motion to reconsider the rezoning for the McCurdy supportive housing project.

While the motion was defeated, with only Hodge voting in favour of reconsideration, the project was changed from what is dubbed a “wet” facility—where illegal drugs and alcohol can be used freely by residents—to one that will not allow the use of illegal drugs on-site.

At the time, Basran said the people who will live at the McCurdy facility will be further along in their journey to recovery than those who would be housed at a wet facility.

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