Summerland council gives thumbs up to affordable housing project, with restrictions

Housing green lit with limits

The District of Summerland unanimously voted in favour of providing up to $547,000 in financial support to an affordable housing project, with a restrictive convenant built in to the development.

The Turning Points Collaborative Society presented on Tuesday to help increase affordable housing in the area.

The society is working with the Summerland United Church and the Summerland Food Bank & Resource Centre to construct a building that will be comprised of a food bank and resource centre, as well as 60 units of affordable housing.

The building lot would be located at 13204 and 13214 Henry Ave., where the church currently stands. Turning Points would own the one housing lot and the Summerland Food Bank & Resource Centre would own the other.

They are looking to construct a five-storey mixed-use apartment building consisting of 60 affordable dwelling units which are a mix of one, two and three-bedroom units.

The affordable housing project will be available for seniors, families and people with disabilities.

The society had been seeking a grant-in-kind for all the development permits and fees, development costs and variance charges, which the district calculates at approximately $657,780, as well as an annual property tax exemption for 10 years.

This would be subject to the application and notice process, which could add cost to the district and was not included in the cost estimate.

Much of the concerns surrounding the project which were expressed on Tuesday were around whether the development would open up the chance for a homeless shelter or supportive housing to be incorporated at a later date.

Neither Turning Points nor the Summerland Food Bank included information in their proposal indicating housing would be expanded into that area, and ensured in their comments it was otherwise.

While Turning Points provides housing outreach, addiction recovery services and employment services in some other communities, their largest portfolio as a not-for-profit society is operations of affordable housing.

“For our affordable housing portfolio, we operate 15 sites and have 268 units. Of those, 69 of those units are specifically for families. 54 of them are specifically for seniors, and the rest are for couples or single occupants,” said executive director Kelly Fehr.

“Affordable housing is not an emergency shelter and addictions treatment site, or housing with support services on site. Who will live here? A broad demographic — families, seniors, people with disabilities and individuals. A note there is a lack of family housing in Summerland and no housing sites that support this combined demographic.”

Fehr added the goal is to provide long-term housing to keep residents in the community.

“It's not just single individuals anymore. It's not just couples. So this society's had a specific focus over the last few years on doing whatever we can to support families,” he said.

However, members of the public made use of the comment opportunity to express their concern for Summerland, despite assurances from the organization.

A Summerland Chamber of Commerce member spoke on behalf of the organization, stating they support the provision of more affordable housing in the area, but pleaded for zoning or covenants to be put in place if approved.

“Our definition of affordable housing is a home for lower-income people who have jobs or pensions and can be relied upon to pay a reasonable monthly rent but primarily not to bring the level of dysfunction for our community, such as we see around some of the projects in Penticton and other Okanagan cities,” chamber member Steve Lornie said.

Gary Logan, a local soft fruit farmer, said they do not see Summerland being able to “physically manage this project if some of these covenants that were expressed were unable to be followed through.”

“The establishment of a recovery facility in our community, in our opinion, will exacerbate problems that we see in other communities throughout British Columbia,” he added.

One local chose to speak on the need for affordable housing in the community.

“One thing we need to realize is that affordable housing is incredibly necessary, even for the members of our business community. Because who is going to be here to serve those burgers at A&W and to be those clerks in your store if no one is there?

“Comments here were requesting restrictions so that [addiction or homeless] services cannot be provided. From what I see to date that's not on the table. That's not what's being asked for,” she added.

“To say that we don't want to do these things because we don't want to attract people with addictions or people with problems…These problems are here already. ...It's not only the wealthy and the business people that are members of our community. Our members of the community often have addiction issues and mental health issues, and what's wrong with providing services to them as well.”

John Bubb, one of the food bank directors, spoke up in the hope of dispelling some of the fear that the Summerland Food Bank will be expanding its services.

“We don't intend to get into medical areas and areas where we don't have that expertise,” he said.

‘We are not exempt in Summerland from homeless people and people with challenges in their lives. We can deal with that in two ways — we can vilify them and drive them away, or we can deal with them with compassion as best we can. I don't share the fear that Summerland will turn into a problem community because we're caring for people who are at the lower end of the income scale.”

District staff noted that changes to the property to be turned into a homeless shelter or supportive housing would require a zoning change approval as well.

Coun. Richard Barkwill said he didn’t feel it was the municipality's job to spend money on the housing project.

“We should be providing arenas and roads and pools, not subsidized housing. That's a provincial responsibility. So my threshold on contributions is much lower I think than the rest of the council,” he added.

Deputy Mayor Erin Trainer responded.

“It is tough because one of the number one issues that we hear from voters all the time is affordable housing and what are we going to do about it?” Trainer said.

“I would look to support this as well, because 60 units is quite a bit. That will make a real difference in our community, especially for families who've been trying to get a place and live here. So while it is a good chunk of money. I think that the benefits of providing people in our community with a place to live are huge."

Coun. Adrienne Betts added while it may not be the responsibility of municipalities if the district wants to keep people in the area, they must enact change.

“It's part of council to have the option to support these opportunities, and I think that this building is that.”

From the discussion, CAO Graham Statt said the project has established three levels of protection to have it remain affordable housing. The first is the 60-year agreement between BC Housing and Turning Points Collaborative Society for operations, the second is the zoning provision that would have to come back if any uses were in conflict with the existing approval, and the third would be the Section 219 Covenant.

A Section 219 Covenant between the municipality and property owners regulates the use of land or the construction of structures or buildings as part of the development approval process.

Council agreed that they couldn’t support the 10-year tax relief request at this time, and decided to cap their financial support.

The district voted in favour of providing financial support up to $547,000 to the Turning Points affordable housing project, subject to successful negotiation of the Section 219 covenant, as well as district staff collaboration in the timely processing of any applications necessary to facilitate the development.

Coun. Janet Peake recused herself from council during the discussion and vote, as she is the president of the Summerland Food Bank and is a member of the church. Mayor Doug Holmes was away for Tuesday's meeting.

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