Local MLA Adam Olsen	said he appreciates the concerns raised by an online petition demanding Saanichton residents be consulted prior to the supportive housing proposed for 1909 Prosser Rd. but reserves comment on demand to pause project. (Hansard TV)

Local MLA Adam Olsen said he appreciates the concerns raised by an online petition demanding Saanichton residents be consulted prior to the supportive housing proposed for 1909 Prosser Rd. but reserves comment on demand to pause project. (Hansard TV)

Residents petition against supportive housing project in Central Saanich

MLA Adam Olsen acknowledges concerns, but reserves comment on calls to pause project

Local MLA Adam Olsen said in an interview late last week that he will share public concerns about plans for supportive housing in Central Saanich, while declining to comment on more specific demands.

Olsen said he appreciates the concerns raised by an online petition demanding Saanichton residents be consulted prior to the supportive housing proposed for 1909 Prosser Rd. and plans to share them with the minister responsible for housing.

“I will be sharing those concerns and be really strongly expressing to him that it is important that if the government is going to proceed with this, that they have a really positive working relationship with the municipality and ensure that all of the services that are needed to support this facility are in place,” he said.

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Federal, provincial and regional officials announced late last month the plan to build 39 supportive housing units at 1909 Prosser Rd. with construction to start this spring as part of a $13.1 million federal funding program.

It stipulates accepted projects must be completed within 12 months and help vulnerable populations. Also receiving funding are 52 supportive housing units in Saanich and David Eby, provincial attorney general and minister and minister responsible for housing, said last month work on those projects will start immediately after the province invoked paramountcy and skipped municipal approval.

Walter Bly, who launched the petition, said the province’s action set a dangerous precedent and calls for a pause on the project. “What they are going to do will forever change the neighbourhood,” he said. “So they should take that into consideration and allow time for consultation with the neighbourhood.”

RELATED: Feds put $13.1 million toward 91 new affordable housing units in Saanich, Central Saanich

Olsen declined to comment on this demand for a pause.

“I’m not going to comment on that until I have had the opportunity to hear them out (petition organizer) and have that conversation, as well as get the perspective of the minister,” he said. “I think what is important is that we take the appropriate measures to negotiate the various relationships that are here.”

Signees of the petition – which reached more than 900 signatures as of Monday morning – have expressed concern that the location of the supportive housing appears inappropriate given its proximity to public amenities such as Centennial Park.

When asked about evidence to support claims that supportive housing would lead to increased crime rates, Bly pointed to Penticton, where political leadership has blamed supportive housing for high crime rates. Others have expressed fear that property values in the area will drop.

Olsen said Central Saanich needs a variety of housing including supportive housing, while acknowledging practical questions.

“I want to take a compassionate approach,” he said. “I recognize that people are expressing concerns and I want to negotiate through those concerns with people. And as well, we have people in our community who need housing and we have solutions for that and be compassionate to that as well.”

Central Saanich council approved the RM-5 (residential apartment use) zoning on the property in October 2018 and the residential use conforms to the existing land use bylaw. A housing agreement registered to title secures its use as affordable rental housing and market rental housing.

Central Saanich received notice of the project just prior to the announcement from BC Housing, which is working with the Capital Regional District (CRD) on the project.

According to the official description, the project gives priority to people at risk of homelessness in the Central Saanich region who need minimal supports and are ready to live independently. BC Housing has also promised to engage the community in setting up a community advisory committee.

“In the coming weeks, you will be invited to learn more and provide feedback about how can work together to successfully integrate this new housing into the community at upcoming neighbourhood dialogue sessions,” it reads.


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com