Construction can’t begin on the urgently needed supportive housing and shelter to replace The Portal until the properties are rezoned.
A public hearing is set for June 1 to rezone properties at 45825, 45835, 45845 & 45855 Rowat Avenue and 45865 Trethewey Avenue.
The development proposed by BC Housing is for a four-storey building with 40 dorm-style shelter beds, and 50 micro-unit apartments of supportive housing.
“In response to the increased level of homelessness in the City, BC Housing has increased funding for emergency shelter beds and moved forward with construction of supportive housing projects for those persons who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to help address this issue,” according to the staff report, contained in the agenda for the May 18 council meeting.
The provincial government through BC Housing is leading the rezoning process, as well as funding construction and operating costs, with the Phoenix Drug and Alcohol Recovery and Education Society chosen as operator.
City council gave rezoning and Official Community Plan (OCP) amendment bylaws first and second reading on May 18. The OCP designation would go from ‘General Industrial’ to ‘Comprehensive Development Area’ and the properties would be rezoned from MI (Light Industrial) Zone to R8 (Supportive Housing) Zone.
The project requires an OCP amendment, rezoning, lot consolidation, variances, development permit and building permit.
Part of the staff report is the substantiation. In a memo from the Planning and Strategic Initiatives department it points out questions came in about whether in fact “more shelter beds are needed.”
A total of 306 people self-identified in Chilliwack as homeless in the 2020 FVRD Point in Time Count, but there are only 169 shelter beds, according to the report:
“Emergency shelter beds with wrap-around supports are an important component of BC Housing’s approach to reducing homelessness, although the end goal is to ensure adequate housing for all vulnerable people who are unable to access market housing.”
Staff would be on site 24/7 providing support services for residents, ranging from life skills training, mentorship and wellness checks and more. Fraser Health, through an integrated response team, will provide primary health care, home health and mental health and substance use services on site to some residents and shelter guests, as well as referral to mental health and substance use recovery programs, as needed.
The modular building would be L-shaped with supportive housing on one side and the shelter on the other side.
A ‘Good Neighbour Agreement’ and monthly community advisory committee meetings will be established following the rezoning, to provide opportunities for neighbourhood participation to resolve issues that may arise, said the staff report.
The residents in the supportive housing part of the building will pay rent and sign a program agreement detailing expectations and behaviour. Those measures are expected to offset impacts which may arise and allow for a smooth transition once the facility is in operation.
The project is seen as filling an “urgent” need in the community, concludes the report.
“The proposed OCP amendment, rezoning and variances are supportable in this instance as the resulting development will meet an urgent shelter and housing need in the community, providing both emergency and longer-term housing with supports in close proximity to downtown amenities and services.”
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