February 18, 2014 1:48 pm
Updated: February 19, 2014 12:03 am

Abbotsford defeats rezoning for new housing project for homeless

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An Abbotsford ministry that helps out the homeless is outraged that the city has defeated a rezoning application for a new supportive housing development.

Abbotsford Community Services was hoping to get a rezoning for a 20-bed supportive housing project for men who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless near their facility on Montvue Avenue.

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Ward Draper of The 5 and 2 Ministries says four councillors voted in favour of the rezoning at last night’s council meeting, and three councillors voted against it. That’s when he says the mayor cast the deciding vote and killed the proposal.

“It’s just the same old hot air. ‘It’s a good idea — but not here’ — it’s the same rhetoric we’ve been hearing for months on this issue. It’s extremely frustrating because the city was involved in the project with community services, and now they’re like — screw ’em.”

“It’s infuriating. This would have been a step in the right direction,” says Draper.

He says BC Housing had committed $15 million over 60 years for operating costs. Draper says he can’t understand why the mayor would vote against a proposal with provincial funding attached.

“This is our mayor who has said, if the provincial government will bring money to the table, we will start addressing this issue, and our provincial government just brought at least $15 million to the table — and they turned it down! What a rocket scientist.”

Mayor Bruce Banman said in a statement that the site is not the right spot for supportive housing.

“We heard directly from more than 90 people at the Public Hearing, and we heard that the proposed rezoning was not the right fit for the businesses and residents in the immediate area. Council is committed to finding the right solution for social housing in Abbotsford, but after hearing the public’s voice and having time to reflect on the impact of these zoning changes, Council has decided that this particular amendment was not appropriate for the neighbourhood at this time.”

Banman says while the city is aware of the need for additional supportive housing in Abbotsford, they need to make sure the interests of all residents are considered.

Nadine Power of Abbotsford Community Services says they are very disappointed in the decision.

“It’s a real loss for our city. It’s a real loss for the men who would have benefited from this facility, it’s a loss from a reputation perspective in terms of the city. It’s the second time the province has come to the table with money and been turned away.”

Power says there’s been talk about potential other sites, such as the old MSA Hospital site, but the project is dead.

She says Abbotsford Community Services responded to the original request for proposals and their successful proposal specifically stated that the supportive housing would be built on this site.

“They (the city) were partners in the beginning, they were part of the selection process,” says Power. “They even made a road dedication last summer, subject to the rezoning being successful.”

Power says it was an outcry from some of the businesses in the area that ultimately defeated the project.

“Part of it is fear, fear of the unknown, we understand that.”

Abbotsford has been in the headlines recently on issues surrounding homelessness.

A human rights complaint was launched against the city last year after chicken manure was spread on a homeless camp.

Another homeless camp at Jubilee Park was forced to move after the city ordered them out with an injunction.

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