While BC Housing has revealed one property where it plans to build 38 new supportive housing units for the homeless, there are 200 more promised.
It’s not yet known where the remaining units will be built and the clock is ticking, as the homes are supposed to replace 160 temporary modular units that opened in Whalley last summer, which have an expiry date as they are leased from private owners.
One Surrey councillor said the rest of the permanent replacements are expected to be “all over the city.”
“We’re looking at different areas,” said Councillor Brenda Locke, who chairs the city’s social planning committee. “I expect in every town centre, there will be something built.”
On Monday (Feb. 25), BC Housing announced the first permanent site and, if approved, it will house 38 of the 250 promised permanent supportive housing units.
“I’m pretty confident it will be accepted,” Locke said of that site, on BC Housing-owned land at 13245 King George Blvd. “It was kind of a hotel that was converted into a hub, so now they’re going to redevelop the property. It’s going to be purpose-built.”
These new homes would be in addition to 57 supportive units already operational on the property, called Peterson Place and operated by Fraserside Community Services Society.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has submitted a rezoning application to allow for the new homes and is aiming for an occupancy date of early 2020. A public information meeting is planned for March 19 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Ukrainian Orthodox Cultural Centre (13512 108th Ave.).
While Locke is optimistic this site won’t face opposition, the first proposed location in Cloverdale was “withdrawn” by BC Housing last fall, in the face of public outcry.
“There’s not going to be any neighbourhood impact because first of all it already exists there and there hasn’t been impact but I can’t imagine there is going to be a concern,” Locke said of the Peterson Place location. “And nor should there be, to be frank, because every place we have put a housing project in has been so successful.
“Our job now is to find the other locations,” she added. “We have some we’re thinking about. Once we’ve solidified these locations we’ll be going out to the community and doing public engagement on locations and keep moving forward.”
Locke said she envisions the remainder of the sites housing in the range of 45 to 55 units each.
She hopes communities will be accepting of the sites.
“The makeup of the people is going to be different in every environment,” Locke noted. “We’ve talked about low-income seniors and marginalized seniors, we do have to get housing for them. We do have to get housing for youth.”
“We’ve got more than 600 people that are needing housing in this city,” she stressed.
Meantime, Locke said construction is set to start soon on a transitional housing project near Green Timbers Urban Forest. Likely, once snow clears, she added.
“All the pieces have been put together. The city has passed it at fourth reading, BC Housing is ready to go, Fraser Health is on board, everybody’s ready. Mother Nature is in the way right now,” said Locke.
The project, on a 12-acre property at 14150 Green Timbers Way, will see a six-storey facility built across from the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre. According to BC Housing, it will have 96 supportive housing units and 27 “transitional accommodation units” which are described as “individual self-contained rooms,” not group-style shelter beds.
A shortfall in shelter space has been an ongoing issue in Surrey.
There has been a trend in recent years for temporary shelters to open in the city’s north end, only to become permanent, with the need for more persisting.
And, there has been a “shortfall” in extreme weather spaces in North Surrey this winter, due to that trend.
Even with the opening of the 160 temporary modular units in Whalley last summer, shelters in that area found themselves turning people away during a cold snap this month.
For the first time this year, civic space was used to help house the homeless population, given the situation, as part of the provincially funded “Extreme Weather Response” program.