Friday, October 20, 2017

Affordable housing results continue to elude Prince Rupert City Council

Raffles is one of the few options for
emergency shelter, as Prince Rupert
continues to seek out a solution to
a concerning affordable housing situation
A strong feeling of frustration was clear in a number of cases on Monday night, as the topic of affordable and supportive housing, or the lack of those options in Prince Rupert, returned to the discussion table at City Council.

The theme of housing gained some time at the Council session as Councillor Joy Thorkelson called attention to a growing concern for the well being of the homeless and near homeless in the community, particularly as the winter weather approaches.

"Again we are getting into rainy days and stormy days of the fall and we still remain, even after all of Council's engagement with Makola and other housing providers we still don't have a proper shelter other than Raffles" -- Councillor Joy Thorkelson at Monday's Council Session

As we reviewed yesterday, Ms. Thorkelson's strong commentary on finding solutions and to provide for those in need in the community, may have been the most important ten minutes from Monday's council session and an area where much of the attention of both the city and the public should be directed heading into the fall.

Councillor Joy Thorkelson introduced 
themes of affordable, supportive  and
emergency housing
at Monday night's Council session.
Her review of the current status of the city's housing initiatives came through her comments and observations on the alarming status of some residents that call Prince Rupert home , with the larger issue of affordable and supportive housing making for the final portion of the Monday meeting.

For his part, Councillor Barry Cunningham called attention the many, many meetings that the city has held on the theme of housing and how a solution has yet to be found.

"I just want to say that the time and effort that we put into housing and the results are just about nil are very frustrating, I know that people think that we've done nothing, but we've had meetings, we've had meetings ...  it's a provincial situation that we have to wrap our heads around and get more help -- Councillor Barry Cunningham on Council's efforts on affordable housing

As the Councillor notes, the topic of housing has been one of the main currents of discussion since this Council group was elected in November of 2014 and in fact the need for affordable housing was one of the key themes of that election campaign that brought the Mayor and six councillors to office.

However, after the initial push to raise the issue in public of the first few years, other than some success found in the prospect for more Senior's housing this year; the theme of affordable and supportive housing has not been quite as prominent during the Public Council sessions of 2017.

As part of Monday night's discussion on some of the issues facing the community, Mayor Lee Brain noted that he and Mr. Cunningham had met with MLA Jennifer Rice for an hour last week to discuss housing and homelessness.

From that session, the take away from the Mayor seems to be that he believes that now that she sits on the government side of the House,  there is an opportunity to work closer with Ms. Rice on the issue. Adding that Council could invite the MLA to attend to a future council session and present to Council on some of the province's plans for Prince Rupert.

As to where the city is at in the current discussion on housing the Mayor outlined a few of his  observations on the theme in response to Ms. Thorkelson's concerns.

"I do believe you're right, we have to do more for the community, we've done lots already and we have to continue with that effort"

The full overview of the discussion can be found on our Council Timeline feature and is available for viewing through the City's Video Archive starting at the one hour five minute mark.

As was noted on Monday night, there is some relief on the way, when it comes to needs of seniors in the community, with hopes that the Metlakatla proposal for the city's east side will soon move forward.

However, when it comes to finding a way to address the concerns for those in the most need , the frustration of both Mr. Cunningham and Ms. Thorkelson highlights just how much farther the community needs to go to produce some results.

Both Council members delivered some well thought out and interesting themes, recounting what appears to have been a stream of seemingly endless discussions on housing, with little tangible evidence to this point that we are getting closer to a solution to the housing concerns.

The exclamation point to the commentary provided through the jarring reminder of the issues facing the city's homeless and near homeless, as delivered by Ms. Thorkelson's review of the current situation found in the city.

Councillor Cunningham pointed to frustrations with the how the province has handled the file over the years, but what's puzzling about that narrative is that other communities of the region seemingly have found a way to get the ear of both the previous and current provincial governments.

As we've noted in our housing archives in recent months, both Terrace and Kitimat have moved forward with a range of housing options to address some of the concerns in their communities.

Affordable Housing units' construction underway
BC Housing spending more than $!5 million on Terrace housing projects
BC Housing converts Kitimat City Centre suites to shelter

During the recent UBCM convention, the town of Smithers was featured prominently as part of Premier John Horgan's roll out of an affordable housing project, making use of modular housing concepts to build residential units in that community.

Considering the success that those communities have had on the housing files, Prince Rupert's Council members might want to make a few phone calls and ask for the blue prints to their housing initiatives, in order to see how they might be able to deliver the same results as those found further east.

Whatever the reasons, Prince Rupert it would seem is having some problems getting their needs across to the provincial government and BC Housing.

A review of some of the recent announcements from the housing agency indicates that across BC the delivery of affordable housing options are moving forward.

Hopefully between the efforts of City Council and North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, Prince Rupert may soon be included in the rolling list of provincial announcements.

For more items related to the housing issue in the region see our archive page here.

More notes on the themes of discussion at Prince Rupert City Council can be found on our Council archive page.

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