The McCurdy supportive housing project by BC Housing will go ahead following council’s approval on Monday.
Councillors agreed the form and character of the proposed development by BC Housing is “beautiful” and fits within the bylaw requirements with its 50 bike stalls and 35 parking stalls.
But council emphasized the need for operators, the Canadian Mental Health Association of Kelowna, to prioritize safety and security for the surrounding community of Rutland.
“We approve land use, not tenancy,” Coun. Loyal Wooldridge said. “But I do want to acknowledge the concern in the community, for sure.”
“Housing first is a part of our solution to end homelessness in Kelowna and we have to make these courageous decisions and I’m very confident the service providers operating the site will do so in a respectful manner for the neighbourhood,” he said.
The four-storey, 49-unit building at 130 McCurdy Road will provide housing for youth between the ages of 19 and 24 and other individuals experiencing homelessness.
Coun. Gail Given reiterated the importance of providing housing for youth.
“We know as part of our Journey Home Strategy, the youth component is significant and the potential for youth homelessness,” she said. “A project like this could really provide a future for the youth.”
The project, which will be built on the former Knights of Columbus hall site, had previously come before council under a different applicant in 2017. However, that applicant, Freedom’s Door, failed to raise appropriate funding and the project was dropped.
The Kelowna Knights of Columbus and the Culos Development Group continued to work together and BC Housing and CMHA took the helm to ensure the project came to fruition.
“The only thing we’re dealing with is the form and character of the building,” Coun. Brad Sieben said. “That’s the only tool here in the councillors’ toolbox.”
“It is incumbent on the operator, BC Housing and the province to ensure this functions successfully,” he said. “There is some apprehension in the community, council doesn’t have the tools in the toolbox now, but maybe they should, in the future, to look at that and have some checks and balances.”
Coun. Charlie Hodge was the only one opposed to the project. He said he felt that council was put in an “awkward situation.”
“This project is not the project it was,” he said. “So, it’s a tough decision.”
He told his councillor colleagues he would find a flaw in the design to make his decision.
Coun. Hodge’s apprehension echoes MLA Norm Letnick has asked Housing Minister Selina Robinson to “pause” the project until other project-related issues in the Rutland community are resolved.
“The people of Rutland are very generous and caring and have done more than their fair share when it comes to housing the hardest to house,” Letnick said in the open letter.
A public information meeting will be held regarding the BC Housing plan on June 26 at Rutland Centennial Hall at 5:30 p.m. Construction is expected to begin this summer.