Construction of BC Housing’s latest supportive housing development for youth and individuals experiencing homelessness in Rutland is expected to begin this summer.
A portion of the four-storey, 49-unit building at 130 McCurdy Road will be reserved for youth aged 19 to 24, as recommended by the City of Kelowna’s Journey Home Strategy.
“Through strong partnerships, we are starting to make progress with more than 230 supportive homes completed or underway in Kelowna,” Housing Minister Selina Robinson said.
“We know there’s more work to do. People experiencing homelessness deserve the opportunity to build a better life and we will continue to address the need for supportive housing here and in communities throughout the province.”
“BC Housing has successfully housed thousands of people in supportive housing units across the province, including more than 140 people in Kelowna during the past year,” Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said.
The home’s day-to-day operations will be handled by the Canadian Mental Health Association of Kelowna. It will provide 24-7 support services to residents, including referrals to Interior Health recover programs when necessary.
Residents of the planned new building at McCurdy Road and Rutland Road will be required to sign a program agreement that details expected behaviour and building rules. Residents will pay $375 in rent each month with the province’s social assistance shelter allowance.
“Providing homes with appropriate supports is fundamental to supporting the health and well-being for people who have been homeless for a long time,” CMHA executive director Shelagh Turner said. “Housing stability is the first step in clearing the way so people can thrive and move towards an improved quality of life.”
But not everyone is happy with the plan.
Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick has asked Robinson to “pause” the project.
“I am asking you to pause this new supportive housing project until the issues surrounding the existing Rutland projects are resolved to their neighbourhood’s satisfaction or alternatively create housing which has a better chance of meeting with community support,” he said in the open letter to the minister.
Letnick, a long-time volunteer and supporter of housing initiatives, said the province must collaborate with community partners and housing project developers to prove it can house at-risk or individuals who are actively using drugs without impacting the surrounding community.
“Currently that is not the case,” he said.
“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.
Culos Development Group president Mike Culos said his firm has worked closely with the Knights of Columbus for more than 10 years to redevelop the site, which is currently home to the non-profit organization’s hall. In return for the Knights’ sale of the land, it will receive two units in the new building and a new hall.
The site, which was rezoned in 2017 after it was brought to council with Freedoms Door at the helm, was purchased by Culos in a buy-back from the Knights to keep the project alive. BC Housing will purchase the units through the provincial Rental Housing Corporation.
The Freedom’s Door plan—to build a 49-unit building that would have housed graduates of its abstinence-based recovery program—went to a public hearing in September 2017 and more than 300 people attended. At the time, residents argued the location on McCurdy Road was too close to schools and community amenities to safely house vulnerable people. But Freedom’s Door also had a lot of support during the four-hour public hearing.
Kelowna city councillors will discuss issuing a development permit for the new B.C. Housing structure Monday at its regular weekly council meeting.
A public information meeting will be held regarding the B.C. Housing plan June 26 at the Rutland Centennial Hall on starting at 5:30 p.m.