Mayoral candidates are weighing in on the proposed supportive housing for downtown Cloverdale.
The 60-unit, four-storey project has seen opposition from both the Cloverdale Business Improvement Association and vocal community groups. The BIA has issued a statement officially opposing the project, and as of Thursday morning a petition from community members against the project had received more than 3,100 signatures.
Ahead of the community open house scheduled for Thursday evening, Surrey First mayoral candidate Tom Gill issued a statement opposing the current proposed location.
In a press release, Gill said, “I’ve spoken to BC Housing and let them know that this is the wrong location and the proposal needs to look for a more appropriate site.”
After walking through the neighbourhood “[i]t’s clear that this proposal has to go back to the drawing board,” he said.
Gill explained that because no formal application has been brought in front of city council, the project is at a “very preliminary stage.” He believes that “starting over is the right option.”
“There’s no question we need supportive housing, that’s a reality. But, the proposed location in downtown Cloverdale isn’t the right fit, and I’m prepared to work with BC Housing and the community to find a better and more suitable location.”
Gill said that “sending the proposal back to the drawing board at this early stage” made more sense than “going all the way through a formal process that’s going to have the same result.”
Safe Surrey Coalition mayoral candidate Doug McCallum said that he spoke with businesses, and “they had indicated that it’s a good project, but it’s in the wrong location. I just echo that.”
Public consultation is the most important part of any city project, he said. “That’s the biggest part of the program. To talk to the community,” he said.
“When you talk to them, most communities will say yes, but we need to put it into the right part of the community. They didn’t do any consulting in the public, so this is what you get when you do that.”
McCallum said that when he was mayor, he worked to put in a shelter in Cloverdale near 190 Street, just south of the Highway 10. “I personally consulted with the Cloverdale communities at the time, and we came to agreement that a location for one of these recovery houses would be outside of the city centre in Cloverdale.”
“If I was elected, I wouldn’t pick this location for sure,” he said.
Integrity Now’s Bruce Hayne said the current proposal was not what was outlined to city council six months ago.
“At that time the proposal was to look at a number of sites around the city that could be potential locations for that sort of next step in the housing continuum and this permanent supportive housing,” he said.
Hayne said he got involved when he began receiving emails from residents concerned about safe consumption and wraparound services on site.
“I talked to many of the residents and quite frankly, in my opinion the goal posts have changed quite a bit. It wasn’t my understanding there was going to be safe consumption and those types of services. My impression was people moving into this more permanent supportive housing would be far more stabilized and on their way to independent living.”
“I simply don’t believe this is the proper location for services like that,” he said, noting that there is “little transit” and no hospital nearby the site.
Hayne, a Cloverdale resident, said “This isn’t NIMBYism. We all know supportive housing is needed, and there’s all types and levels of supportive housing, but when we’re talking about a 60-bed unit in downtown Cloverdale beside daycare, and all these things, it just doesn’t make sense.”
Rajesh Jayaprakash of People First Surrey said that his slate is “totally supportive of housing.”
“We don’t want to delay the project, but we think there is an opportunity to have a look at all the possible locations, to ensure this is the right location. If there’s a better location we can find, I think we should explore that opportunity.”
“I think we need a process to re-evaluate,” he said. “But again, we’re definitely in support of housing and don’t want to delay this project.”
Progressive Sustainable Surrey mayoral candidate Imtiaz Popat said he generally supports the idea of having supportive housing throughout the city.
“But you need to have infrastructure to support the people who would be living in supportive housing as well,” he said, explaining that lack of transit was a major concern.
Popat said he will be attending an upcoming mayoral all-candidates meeting in Cloverdale, and he was very interested in hearing what people have to say about the project.
Proudly Surrey council candidate Stuart Parker said, “I do think the BIA and local residents have some legitimate concerns about the specific location of the housing. I do think that the city could have worked more effectively with the community to site the project closer to businesses, and to make it more transit accessible.”
“We strongly support the siting of supportive housing somewhere in downtown Cloverdale. Every community needs to share the responsibility of providing supportive housing.”
Parker said that it was unfortunate that the future occupants of the housing were being made to feel unwelcome.
“We certainly think that every one of the major centres of Surrey should have supportive housing that is welcoming to its new occupants.”
Independent mayoral candidate François Nantel said he would “need to know more about what other options are considered.”
“Homelessness starts with pushing people out of their home due to the disconnection of income and rental rates,” Nantel said. “Homes are not part of the free market. For a free market to exist, one needs to have options. Since no one can pitch a tent as an option then you do not have a ‘free market.’”
Independent mayoral candidate John Wolanski did not immediately return a request for comment.