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Fight dramatically escalates between BC Housing, Penticton council over downtown winter shelter

An emergency shelter in Penticton has sparked a fight between BC Housing and city council after council rejected a request to extend the site’s temporary-use permit until March 2022. The site’s permit expires on April 1. Global News

It appears BC Housing isn’t taking no for an answer in its emergency-shelter fight with Penticton city council.

Earlier this month, in a unanimous decision, Penticton council flatly denied BC Housing’s request to extend the 42-bed shelter on Winnipeg Street.

The controversial downtown site was given a temporary-use permit in October, albeit reluctantly by council, with the permit good until April 1.

Read more: Penticton city council rejects BC Housing application to extend winter shelter permit

With the expiration date nearing, BC Housing recently asked council if the temporary-use permit could be extended for a calendar year, to which the city said no.

“We made it very clear at that time that it was just temporary,” Coun. Katie Robinson said during a council meeting earlier this month, “and I believe it’s incumbent upon us to go forward and do what we said we were going to do, which was to shut it down on March 31 when it was over.”

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On Wednesday, BC Housing fired a warning shot over council’s bow, stating it has the legal authority to override council’s decision.

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In a letter dated March 8 to city council, BC Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay said Section 14(2) of the Interpretation Act grants “paramountcy” powers to the provincial government.

The letter says:

Paramountcy arises when the provincial government invokes Section 14(2) of the Interpretation Act of B.C.:

14 (1): Unless it specifically provides otherwise, an enactment is binding on the government.

14(2) Despite subsection (1), an enactment that would bind or affect the government in the use or development of land, or in the planning, construction, alteration, servicing, maintenance or use of improvements, as defined in the Assessment Act, does not bind or affect the government.

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“Section 14(2) of the Act therefore authorizes the provincial government to proceed with the ‘use of development of land or … improvements’ in particular instances without complying with the bylaws (including zoning bylaws) of a municipal government,” wrote Ramsay.

“The province would prefer not to exercise its extraordinary powers under Section 14(2) of the Act to override the bylaws of the City of Penticton and allow for the continued use of the property for the shelter.

“However, the province may be left with no alternative but to do so if an accommodation between the province and the City of Penticton cannot be reached.

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“We respectfully ask that the mayor and council reconsider its rejection of BC Housing’s application to renew the (temporary-use permit) and permit the shelter to continue operating on the property until March 31, 2022.

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“We believe that proceeding in this manner will ensure that both the needs of the people experiencing homelessness in Penticton, and the mutual desires of the city council of Penticton and the province to avoid the creation of a homelessness encampment in Penticton, can be met.”

Ramsay finished by saying “we look forward to your response, which we ask that you provide by no later than Monday, March 15, 2021.”

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In an email to Global News, the city said that it received BC Housing’s letter.

“The letter also contained a reminder that, if council maintains their current position on the (temporary-use permit), the province has authority under Section 14(2) of the Interpretation Act to override council’s decision and allow for the continued use of the 352 Winnipeg Street property as a shelter,” the city said.

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“As requested by the province, once council has completed a review of its options, a reply letter will be provided back to Mr. Ramsay.”

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