Homeless housing rezoning will move to public hearing

Neighbourhood residents start petition against rezoning application

Peter de Jong (right) talks with John Palmer as he signs the petition.

Peter de Jong (right) talks with John Palmer as he signs the petition.

A proposal that would rezone land on Gladys Avenue to allow for housing for the homeless was given first approval by council and will move to public hearing on Nov. 3.

The properties are on the west side of Gladys Avenue, just north of George Ferguson Way, and are being rezoned to allow for a low-barrier supportive housing project – where support services like counselling, addiction treatment and more are provided to residents – with the hope of securing provincial funding.

While all of council voted to give the proposal first and second reading, Coun. Henry Braun called it a “poor second choice” to a former proposal for a 21-bed supportive housing project put forward by Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) at 2408 Montvue Ave., across from their headquarters.

In February, a tie vote defeated the project. Some of the opposition was due to the location of the project, particularly from the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA), which objected to its location in the C7 zone, a special downtown city zone that prohibits supportive recovery use.

The Gladys location is not in the C7 zone and the ADBA has provided a letter of support for the current proposal.

But Braun said the city now must donate the land for the project at a cost to taxpayers, while the ACS project land was donated by that organization.

He estimated that each of the eight lots in question could be sold for $200,000, meaning taxpayers will be giving up land with a “value of $1.6 million.”

The city has said the BC Assessment value of the properties to be rezoned is currently $876,300, but the current value is tied to the properties’ existing zoning.

Coun. John Smith said they have “got to move on” and back this project which has support from the ADBA. He said that he doesn’t think $1.6 million is an accurate assessment of the land and that the project is needed.

Smith said he hopes the rezoning will encourage BC Housing, the provincial agency responsible for affordable housing, to provide funds for a project.

For the bylaw to be adopted, the city must register a covenant to prohibit emergency shelters from the site and have the Ministry of Transportation sign the bylaw.

Many neighbours of the proposed site do not support the rezoning process.

A report from staff said that at the Oct. 1 public information meeting on the proposal, 61 comment sheets were returned to city staff with nine attendees in support, 48 people opposed and four undecided.

Peter de Jong, who has lived near the proposed site for many years, organized a petition to oppose the city’s plan.

On Sunday, he was at the Gladys location to give neighbours a chance to add their voice to the opposition.

He said the neighbourhood already experiences high rates of crime – he has personally experienced four incidents of theft – and is concerned the proposal would only add to the issues they face.

“Our neighbourhood has been under siege due to lawlessness.”

He said about 100 people have signed the petition against the project as many residents in the area do not feel safe and are worried about the impact a housing project would have on their community.