Kitsilano group suggests supportive housing will create 1,400 police calls annually

Apr 21 2022, 9:43 pm

Would BC Housing’s plans to build a 140-unit supportive housing building next to SkyTrain’s future Arbutus Station generate 1,400 police calls in the first year after completion?

That is the suggestion being made by the Kitsilano Coalition, an advocacy group formed by the neighbourhood residents.

Based on recent comments made by Vancouver Police Department officials, there were 1,000 police calls in the first year of the former Howard Johnson Hotel’s use as a supportive housing building for 100 individuals relocated from the Oppenheimer Park homeless encampment.

“BC Housing plans put 140 people with serious addiction and mental health issues into the proposed tower with no services other than a monitored injection site in the building,” said Karen Finnan, a Kitsilano resident and spokesperson for Kitsilano Coalition.

“So, does that mean Kitsilano families and small businesses should expect 1,400 police calls in a year if the project gets City Hall approval?”

2086-2098 West 7th Avenue 2091 West 8th Avenue Vancouver supportive housing

Site of the supportive housing tower at 2086-2098 West 7th Avenue and 2091 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver. (Human Studio Architecture & Urban Design/BC Housing)

2086-2098 West 7th Avenue 2091 West 8th Avenue Vancouver supportive housing

Layout of the supportive housing tower at 2086-2098 West 7th Avenue and 2091 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver. (Human Studio Architecture & Urban Design/BC Housing)

The 164-ft-tall, 13-storey tower will be built on the city-owned lot of 2086-2098 West 7th Avenue and 2091 West 8th Avenue, located immediately north of the future SkyTrain station and bus exchange.

According to BC Housing, no public overdose prevention site (OPS) is planned for this housing complex. But this does not preclude basic treatment services for residents, which will include individuals with mental health and addiction issues.

Supportive housing is often a temporary housing step for its residents — the transition between shelters and social housing. In this case, it is expected to be the permanent home for many residents.

There is a real need for more social and supportive housing to assist individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness, and a need to disperse such housing complexes across the city and region — beyond their traditional concentration within the downtown Vancouver peninsula, specifically the Downtown Eastside and in Downtown South (Granville Street).

2086-2098 West 7th Avenue 2091 West 8th Avenue Vancouver supportive housing

Artistic rendering of the supportive housing tower at 2086-2098 West 7th Avenue and 2091 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver. (Human Studio Architecture & Urban Design/BC Housing)

But over the last two years, apprehension for such projects has grown in neighbourhoods where they are proposed, fuelled by the conditions of recently implemented sites, and the very visible deterioration.

Real concerns over area-specific violent crime, theft, vandalism, and public disorder associated with the newly established presence of supportive housing, OPS, and encampments have gone unaddressed, if not completely ignored. Supportive housing and OPS facilities are operated by non-profit housing operators, with the support of BC Housing, the municipal government, and local health authority.

Residents near the Yaletown OPS, for instance, have publicly documented an almost daily frequency of incidents outside the facility, and asserted the non-profit operator has clearly violated the “good neighbour agreement” stipulated by Vancouver City Council at the time of the location’s endorsement in October 2020. They assert a lack of accountability from the operators.

“We want council to reject the rezoning application in favour of something that actually works. The proposal comes with none of the services people with mental health and addiction issues need, and even if it did, there is no obligation for people in the proposed tower to accept help or treatment,” said Finnan, who suggests there is overwhelming community opposition to the project.

“It simply feels like the failed housing model of the Downtown Eastside is being exported to neighbourhoods across the city.”

2086-2098 West 7th Avenue 2091 West 8th Avenue Vancouver supportive housing

Artistic rendering of the supportive housing tower at 2086-2098 West 7th Avenue and 2091 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver. (Human Studio Architecture & Urban Design/BC Housing)

2086-2098 West 7th Avenue 2091 West 8th Avenue Vancouver supportive housing

Artistic rendering of the supportive housing tower at 2086-2098 West 7th Avenue and 2091 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver. (Human Studio Architecture & Urban Design/BC Housing)

Earlier this year, the provincial government announced the creation of a new model of housing called complex-care housing, which adds layers to the existing supportive housing model by providing residents under the program with 24/7 specialized care supports, including physical, mental health, and substance use care. The aim is to create a program capacity for about 500 people in complex-care housing by 2025 province-wide.

The complex-care housing program will also be partially implemented by providing more operating cost investments to existing supportive housing units. It should be noted that participation in this new program is entirely voluntary.

Vancouver City Council is expected to consider the rezoning application for the supportive housing tower in a public hearing sometime over the coming months.

City Council will be considering the proposal against the backdrop of its own Broadway Plan process calling for more density and affordable housing near the new subway stations, and the provincial government’s forthcoming legislation directing municipal governments to expedite and approve their housing approvals.

Earlier this month, the provincial government also tabled a bill to provide BC Transportation Financing Authority with the legal ability to acquire land next to public transit hubs to build more housing and community benefits, not just land for direct infrastructure purposes.

The proposed supportive housing tower is also immediately adjacent to St. Augustine School, a Catholic elementary school. They have voiced their concerns over both the supportive housing tower, and the design and construction process of Arbutus Station and its bus exchange.

In late 2021, the school filed legal action in the Supreme Court of BC against the provincial government, demanding significant improvements to improve traffic safety for their students and measures that mitigate future noise from station construction and future operations. SkyTrain’s Millennium Line Broadway Extension reaching Arbutus is anticipated to open in 2025.

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