Elizabeth Phillips, whose elderly parents live in a seniors’ strata in East Courtenay near land bought by the City of Courtenay for a housing initiative suggests property values will “tank” if a homeless shelter or a low-income housing complex is built.
More importantly, she is concerned about the safety of her parents, Carl and Catherine, who live near the City-owned property at 810 Braidwood Rd.
Her father, while walking his dog one night, was assaulted in front of his home by a person known to police.
“It was completely unprovoked and he suffered a brain injury,” Phillips said. “The woman got 21 days in jail.
“A woman and two men. They didn’t want anything; they just hurt him and broke his glasses and walked away and left him laying there.”
She feels the former Habitat for Humanity building on the other side of the Old Island Highway would be a more suitable location for the proposed housing project.
“It’s not a business frontage,” Phillips said. “It seems to me to be a pretty ideal location, and very close to downtown. It’s not in a residential neighbourhood.
“You can’t put it into a neighbourhood where most of the residents are living on fixed incomes,” she added, in reference to the Braidwood property. “It’s just ridiculous to think that that’s a good location.”
While she recognizes that some homeless individuals suffer a mental illness, Phillips said other people live on the street because they have made bad life choices.
“That just has to stop being our problem at some point,” she said.
Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula has cautioned about pushback from residents if a homeless shelter is constructed at 810 Braidwood. He instead envisions about 40 single-room-occupancy (SRO) homes.
The City purchased the property for $264,500 after selling a trio of lots at Eighth and Cliffe for $355,000.
The Comox Valley Regional District had purchased the latter for $470,000 for emergency shelter/supportive housing purposes. Last year, the CVRD transferred ownership of the properties to the City, along with $100,000 from the Vancouver Island Health Authority to develop the project elsewhere.
Jangula was a director on the CVRD board when the district purchased the Cliffe Avenue properties in 2010. Noting pushback from businesses opposed to a downtown shelter, he suggested an alternate site might be found near Chuck’s Trucks at 180 Old Island Hwy. — which is in the immediate vicinity of 810 Braidwood Rd.
Over the course of the next few months, a consultant will host open houses and forming an advisory committee in the Braidwood Road neighbourhood to determine the viability of establishing a housing complex to support individuals who live on the fringes of society. Courtenay council has entered into an agreement with John Jessup & Associates, a social planning consultancy, to prepare a request for proposal for the Braidwood project.
By late-March/early-April, Jessup will report back with — among other things — a range of housing options for the Braidwood site. He also plans to draft a ‘good neighbour agreement’ with the aforementioned neighbourhood advisory committee.
The selection of a supportive housing model for the Braidwood project has been identified as the City’s top corporate priority. If the project comes to fruition, BC Housing would provide funds for capital and operating costs. A non-profit organization would oversee construction and operation of the facility.
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In a 5-2 vote at its most recent meeting, Courtenay council opposed a Ronna-Rae Leonard resolution requesting the City seek partnerships for the originally intended purpose of acquiring land for emergency shelter/supportive housing purposes, in addition to the Braidwood property.
Her motion also called for remaining proceeds ($83,000) from the Cliffe Avenue sale be used for this purpose.
She notes in the preamble to the resolution that the Braidwood site will provide land for one of many required housing initiatives, and that the purchase did not consume all proceeds from the Cliffe Avenue sale.
The City’s Affordable Housing Amenity Reserve Fund is at $227,000, including the $100,000 VIHA transfer.
Council generally supported Leonard’s intentions but preferred to focus on one property for the time being. Coun. Starr Winchester would not want council to tie its hands with a further purchase, especially if another building became available.
“I don’t think we should tie our hands at all,” Mayor Larry Jangula said.
Besides Leonard, Coun. Doug Hillian supported the resolution.