Housing minister says there’s no more room to expand modular housing complex at Royal Crescent. (THE NEWS/files)

B.C. housing minister rejects city’s plan for Maple Ridge homeless encampment

Will proceed with supportive housing on “expedited” basis

Burnett Street is one location B.C. Housing is considering for new temporary modular housing after rejecting Maple Ridge’s social housing plan, passed Tuesday.

“We’re looking a range of properties. Burnett is certainly part of the mix. I have staff out looking for the best fit right now,” Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson said Wednesday.

B.C. Housing owns two lots in the 11700-block of Burnett Street, a location which sparked controversy last year when it was proposed for a permanent supportive housing site.

The city’s social housing plan called for the expansion of the temporary modular housing complex on Royal Crescent to accommodate residents of Anita Place Tent City.

But Robinson said late Tuesday that Royal Crescent can’t be expanded from its present 56 units because of physical limitations and slope of the site and that she told that to the city before council’s decision.

“I was clear with the mayor last week, and again when we spoke today, that inaction was not an option for the community of Maple Ridge, as this situation has been allowed to continue for too long,” Robinson added.

She said the city hasn’t identified a workable solution so the ministry will move forward with building temporary supportive housing on an expedited basis, “to get the camp closed down and to house the people experiencing homelessness in Maple Ridge.”

Residents returned to the camp on 223rd Street this week after an evacuation order by the provincial fire commissioner following a series of fires and explosions there.

Robinson also wants to work with the city on other types of housing for seniors and for recovery homes, as outlined in the social housing plan.

“But we cannot ask the people of Maple Ridge to wait any longer for the housing that is needed to enable us to close the camp down and bring its residents inside, into the supportive homes they need,” Robinson said.

More details on the location and design for more temporary modular housing, including public education sessions, are expected in weeks to come, Robinson said Wednesday.

Residents will be able to register for a community advisory committee.

As for a permanent location, the city’s social housing plan said it wants a “made-in-Maple Ridge,” abstinence-based supportive housing facility.

Robinson said the government, with Fraser Health involvement, is open to looking at what’s possible for a facility that helps those who’ve already gone through detox or treatment.

“But right now, we know that Housing First works, so we just make sure that people have a Housing First opportunity. We know that there’s a shortage of that.”

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