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Rejected South Surrey inclusive-housing project subject of documentary

Trailer previewing May 28 launch of ‘Lauren’s Story’ released on YouTube
Signage promoting inclusivity in housing is removed from property at 151 Street and 20 Avenue. (Doug Tennant twitter photo)

A sneak peak at a documentary that’s hoped to “create a bit of a buzz” about a rejected inclusive-housing project in South Surrey was released this morning (May 10) on YouTube and other social-media channels.

The trailer precedes a “pre-preview” of the world premiere of Lauren’s Story, set for May 28 at the Inclusion BC conference, being held May 26-28 at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel.

Sponsored by UNITI – a partnership of Semiahmoo House Society, Peninsula Estates Housing Society and the Semiahmoo Foundation – the film stars a young woman who was directly impacted when Surrey council last July quashed plans for Harmony, a six-storey, 91-unit development which had been eyed for the 15100-block of 20 Avenue.

READ MORE: South Surrey inclusive-housing project defeated

The project had proposed a combination of inclusive, affordable and close-to-market-rate units, and those behind it said more than 200 people had expressed an interest calling it home.

Like so many others, Lauren Simpson “wasn’t listened to when the decision was made,” Doug Tennant, CEO of UNITI, said Tuesday, ahead of the trailer’s launch.

“It was pretty devastating when that decision came down after very strong, strong public support. And even worse that no reason was given for the rejection.”

The majority of 60-plus people who called in to a public hearing to speak to the project had expressed support, citing a “critical” need for the type of housing proposed.

“Harmony was more than a project, it was a home. It was supposed to be my home,” Simpson says in the one-minute trailer.

Tennant explained that Simpson currently lives with her family, two blocks from where Harmony was hoped to be built. Her story is “powerful,” he said, adding that the documentary also explores possible reasons for the city’s rejection.

Following council’s vote last year, Coun. Laurie Guerra told Peace Arch News she had opposed the project after neighbours of the site told her that they weren’t consulted as promised, and that UNITI officials had been unwilling to compromise on the height.

“I felt that there was merit to the project and I thought if they had just collaborated a bit more,” Guerra said. “But the heights of the buildings were just devastating for these people.”

Tennant told attendees of last week’s Peninsula Homeless to Housing (PH2H) meeting that the 20-minute film “speaks quite a bit about what happened.”

In speaking to PAN Tuesday, he described council’s decision as “cold-hearted,” and said he hopes the documentary will build awareness around the continued need for such housing.

He noted that Simpson is a community leader who worked on Surrey’s Housing Needs Report, supporting other people with disabilities in contributing to it.

Lauren’s Story “doesn’t have a happy ending yet, but it might have a happy ending eventually,” he said.

Simpson is to present a keynote introducing the documentary at the May 28 premiere, set for 11:45 a.m. Anyone interested in attending the launch may email Elizabeth Tichelman at

The documentary will also be available on YouTube following the premiere’s launch.
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Rendering of the Harmony apartment proposed for the 15100-block of 20 Avenue. (Contributed graphic)

Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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