Supportive housing proposal in Lethbridge facing community opposition

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge city council hears proposal for supportive housing rezoning'
Lethbridge city council hears proposal for supportive housing rezoning
WATCH ABOVE: On Tuesday, the Lethbridge Housing Authority presented a plan to city council to expand its supportive housing efforts by changing land use bylaws on two downtown properties. However, as Eloise Therien explains, not everyone was keen on the idea, including nearby businesses. – Dec 14, 2022

The Lethbridge Housing Authority (LHA), a provincially-funded entity, will have to wait several more weeks to continue its push to bolster supportive housing in the city after making a presentation to city councillors at a public hearing on Tuesday.

LHA is asking the city to change the land use bylaws to rezone Castle Apartments and Halmrast Manor from downtown commercial districts to direct control districts.

It is proposed that 25 to 30 of the 142 units at Halmrast Manor would be converted to 24-hour supportive housing, with another 39 units at Castle Apartments.

“We’re just trying to take the individuals that can remain housed out of shelter and keep them housed,” explained Robin James, the LHA’s chief administrative officer.

“We’re currently already doing that, we just can’t provide the supports that we need to keep them housed 24 hours a day without going through this change.”

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Several community members voiced their uneasiness with the plan at Tuesday’s public hearing, which took much of the afternoon.

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“It would be unreasonable and irresponsible to take a gamble on what’s being proposed today,” said Tyler Pollock, a presenter representing a nearby business.

“The more people we put into that neighbourhood, the more activity we create and the more risk we take, and we just cannot have our business take these hits much longer,” said Keith Hitchcock, the owner of a neighbouring restaurant.

A common worry voiced on Tuesday was exactly what “direct control” allows for.

Attendees voiced concerns about the potential for the LHA to add a future shelter or resource centre at Castle Apartments, located at 2 Avenue and 3 Street S.

Maureen Gaehring, a City of Lethbridge planning and design manager, said there was some misunderstanding.

Click to play video: 'More than 450 people homeless in Lethbridge: report'
More than 450 people homeless in Lethbridge: report

“In terms of what’s currently allowed, (the) shelter and resource centre are currently allowed as a discretionary uses,” Gaehring explained.

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“What you’re looking at today with the (direct control) bylaw is actually more certainty that on these two properties you’ll never get a shelter or a resource centre unless someone comes back to city council to amend this (direct control) bylaw.

James said the LHA was hoping to see the bylaws pass all three readings this week as cold weather sets in, but council only passed first readings.

“It’s disappointing, it’s not surprising,” she said. “The province is on-side, but we need some city buy-in.”

The public hearing will continue in approximately eight weeks on Jan. 24, 2023.

“We’re hoping that if we can find a middle ground, that it will give us time and opportunity to prove to our neighbours that supportive housing — when done right — is not something that is negative to the neighbourhood,” James added.

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