B.C.’s housing minister is making good on her threat to go it alone on social housing in Maple Ridge.
Earlier this month, Selina Robinson slammed the city’s own proposed social housing plan as “unworkable,” and said if the city wouldn’t work with the province, the ministry would “move forward” with building temporary supportive housing on its own.
On Wednesday, Robinson unveiled what that would look like, in the form of a 51-unit supportive housing project for residents of the controversial Anita Place homeless camp on the site of a previously-rejected social housing project at 11749 Burnett St.
In its own social housing plan, Maple Ridge had sought to restrict new supportive housing for the homeless to the site of the city’s one existing temporary modular housing project on Royal Crescent, with seniors’ housing proposed for the Burnett Street site.
In a letter to Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden and council Wednesday, Robinson said she appreciated the city’s attempt to create a housing plan, and applauded proposals for seniors and recovery housing. But she said she had made it clear to the city that there was no space for more housing at the Royal Crescent site.
“Given this, we will be moving ahead on an expedited basis to build modular supportive housing on the property we own at 11749 Burnett,” Robinson wrote.
“I agree with your council’s assessment that in the longer term this would be an ideal site for seniors’ housing, and so I have asked staff to also work with city staff on planning for an affordable rental building for seniors for this location” at a later date.
Robinson also asked Maple Ridge to work with BC Housing to develop a plan to ensure support for homeless campers are supported until construction begins in April.
Global News has requested comment from Maple Ridge mayor Mike Morden and representatives for Anita Place residents.
The province says construction will take about five months to build, and the project will house all 47 people who have been confirmed by the city as residents of Anita Place.
The new facility will be operated by Coast Mental Health and provide 24-hour supports for residents. Fraser Health will also provide clinical support services.
The province’s move is sure to be controversial. Last May, Maple Ridge city council rejected a rezoning application to build a shelter and supportive housing facility at the Burnett Street site.
Advocates for the homeless campers also will also likely be unsatisfied. The Pivot Legal Society has argued many of the camp’s actual residents were not included in the city’s count because they were off-site at the time, and thus will be excluded from the housing project.
The long-simmering debate over homelessness in Maple Ridge came to a boil once again at the end of February after three fires in one week at the Anita Place homeless camp, after which the site was evacuated for safety reasons.
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