Summerland’s municipal council has chosen not to apply for grant funding to turn a municipally-owned building into temporary transitional housing.
The proposal grant application, through the 2021 Union of B.C. Municipalities Strengthening Communities Services grant program, was to complete renovations of the former SADI building at 9117 Prairie Valley Road. Up to $450,000 is available through the funding program.
Since 2019, the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre has expressed interest in leasing the building to provide transitional housing in the community. The building is owned by the municipality of Summerland.
A proposal from the centre to the municipality suggested setting up short-term hostel-like accommodations with a shared office for social workers, mental health workers and other support services.
“We also believe our community donors would rally around a project like this and we have enough reserve funds to act quickly while working on longer-term operational funding models,” a 2019 letter from the centre stated.
In March, 2021, a study from the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre indicated there were seven self-identified homeless people in Summerland and another 18 at risk of homelessness, including six women and five children.
The proposal for the building would include single-occupancy rooms and two units for families at risk of homelessness.
The units would provide a short-term housing option for people in need, until they could find an alternative long-term housing solution, Brad Dollevoet, director of development services, said in a report to council.
At the time, the organization was told the building would require significant upgrades and was being targeted for demolition. However, the grant program could pay for renovation work at the building, Janet Peake, president of the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre Society said in a March 30 letter to municipal council.
“We are requesting council’s support to explore the cost of renovations and equipping the former SADI building to meet our still-remaining need for temporary transitional housing,” the letter said.
The building was originally constructed as the Summerland electrical substation. Later, it had been used as the Summerland Asset Development Initiative’s Unity Youth Centre. When the centre closed its doors in the fall of 2019, there were issues with the building, including roof leaks, non-functioning roof gutters, insect activity and more.
In January, 2020, the municipality included $80,000 in the five-year capital plan to proceed with the demolition or renovation of the building in 2022.
An estimate for the cost of fixing up the building comes in at $510,000. These estimates do not include additional costs to create suitable rooms, or upgrades to kitchen or bathroom facilities.
While members of Summerland council were in support of the idea of providing a temporary transitional housing facility, they had concerns about the condition of the existing building and the short timeline, since the deadline for submissions is April 16.
Coun. Marty Van Alphen said council has not yet discussed the idea of providing housing of this nature.
He added that he had questions about the wisdom of investing money in the building, since concerns have earlier been raised about the condition of this building.
Coun. Erin Carlson also questioned the wisdom of fixing up the building, since it has been slated for demolition in the past. She suggested using trailers, similar to those used for housing temporary agricultural workers.
Carlson added that council must consider the services available in Summerland before investing in temporary housing.
“We aren’t able to do what they do in Kelowna,” she said.
Van Alphen said he would like to see a community discussion about a housing facility before proceeding.
“I think we need a long-term solution that’s done right,” added Coun. Doug Holmes.
The motion to not apply for the grant funding received unanimous council support.
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