Monday, March 2, 2020

Prince Rupert's lack of housing starts looms large now ... that as Renoviction crisis set to make additional impact on community

Upcoming plans for renovations of a number of town homes making for
the Pinecrest Town Homes will mean evictions for a large number
of Prince Rupert residents

(image from Google)

Word of the pending forced evictions of over 200 people living in units on the far east side of Prince Rupert hit the high boil over the weekend; with Mayor Lee Brain's Social media portal the forum for some growing anger and frustration at the lack of affordable housing options in the region.

The story which was first reported and well documented by KJ Millar of the Northern View on Friday, outlined a round of recent eviction notices served this past week on residents of Pinecrest Town Homes on Immanuel.

Over 200 residents are reportedly affected by a recent issuance of
eviction notices for a number of town home residences on Immanuel Avenue

The volume of residents that will be expected to depart their homes is staggering, particularly at a time in the city's history where fewer and fewer units are available.

The city's landscape one of building after building shuttered or as more often is the case past structures burned to the ground from our past fires and leaving empty lots; all while the oft predicted surge in housing starts remains something that has never materialized.

Provincial law will give those residents of Pinecrest a bit of a cushion in finding a new place to live, but as has been a frequent topic of conversation over the last few years; those alternative housing plans are harder and harder to find in a city that has seemingly let the housing issue just slide on by.

It has been a topic often discussed by the Council membership, making for a theme of particular concern for Councillor Barry Cunningham in the past and was often one of the key talking points for former Councillor Thorkelson.

But rarely it seems has there been any constructive action come from all of that talk, let alone actual construction taking place towards replacement units for those now gone.

On Friday evening, Mayor Lee Brain provided for the City's first response to the massive renoviction and upcoming expulsions, noting that they had "learned" of the current situation only last week.

Considering how the proponents of the plans for the renovation work would need to have permits and other documentation in place before issuing the eviction notices, it does leave one to wonder how City Council could possibly have been so out of the loop and why the City did not make previous mention of what will be an event of significant impact.

That, in order to offer up some kind of indication that they will work with those affected to find a workable solution to what will be a very concerning situation.

What's curious is the apparent level of attention that City Council has when it comes to permits for renovations for single detached homes, compared to larger multi unit buildings.

A situation where the City Council apparently has more say when it comes to someone modifying their front entrance or porch, than those projects that will result in the large scale expulsion of residents from their homes.

As it is, the Mayor's notes seem to be more of a reaction and attempt to change the narrative to the published news story from Friday and the growing anger in the community that it has generated.

The city's approach towards the issue is apparently that of directing residents and any potential landlords to the offices of Paul Legace at the Unemployed Action Centre at Fisherman's Hall on Fraser Street, the location which it seems will serve as a conduit for the soon to be evicted and anyone who may have accommodation to offer them.

The shift towards Fraser Street offering up a visual of the City Council and current Administration as a collective that will remain less engaged on an official basis.

Mostly, the Mayor's Friday statement appears to offer deflection for the city; with the Mayor pointing to the Province as the party responsible for social housing in the community, while making note of some of the other actors who are also of note on the housing issues.

To this point, the Mayor's comments seem to stand alone to reflect the views of Council, with some of those Prince Rupert Council members who host social media portals, having put their information streams into political hibernation of late.

The theme from the City that  in effect turns things over to the province for attention, so far has not been addressed by MLA Jennifer Rice to this point.

While she has explored a number of other themes through her social media streams over the weekend.

Now some four days after the housing issues of her home constituency took hold of the conversation in Prince Rupert, the North Coast MLA has yet to make any form of a statement on the larger housing issue back home.

Had this latest renoviction expulsion happened during her days of Opposition one imagine's that it would surely have been a theme for much bombast in the Legislature and through her political  themes of her social media feeds.

As of this morning however, the elected official at the provincial level has offered no advice for those directly affected by the renovictions, and no larger vision as to when this community may anticipate additional resources from their government of which the MLA is a caucus member.

As for the Mayor's commentary on the situation, more than a few of the commentators took Mr. Brain's missive to task following his Friday night publishing.

The public reaction to the Mayor's message should serve as a bit of an eye opener for Mr. Brain and the remainder of his council collective.

That as a number of participants expressed their concern over how the housing issue has continued to fall through the cracks at City Hall, with many making note of the many apartment buildings that have burned to the ground or been demolished in recent years, never to be replaced with additional housing stock for those in the most need.

The ongoing reduction in affordable housing stock in Prince Rupert has been a theme we have explored often in the past through a range of entries, through many years of our Housing Archive page.

The Old Raffles Under Renovation
The Digby tower remains abandoned

Over the last half decade, City Council has made much of the many housing approvals that they have issued in that period, yet for any number of reasons, not one of those expansive housing developments has ever seen a shovel hit the ground.

March 2018 -- In Prince Rupert: Housing approvals don't always mean housing starts

Some of that lack of action is owing to a change of direction from the prospective developer, others after City Council and developers apparently differed on how to approach that construction, leaving the developer it would it seem to just walk away from their projects.

Beyond that, while the City suggests that they have been working behind the scenes to encourage the province on housing stock, there has been little to be shown yet from those efforts.

With only the recently built Crows Nest Lodge brought to the finish line by the provincial government, a project that was a fair bit behind schedule in completion and actually downsized in capacity somewhat from the original design.

The delayed arrival of the Crows Nest came just ahead the closure of Raffles Inn at Five Corners,  which is now under renovation after having sent a large volume of residents  out into the community seeking accommodation; something that only contributed even more towards pushing those in the greatest need to find some kind of shelter, somewhere ... anywhere.

Yes, there have been a few other units become available in recent years, some privately built and of a more upscale nature; with other initiatives from local First Nations in the region that at least attempt to address the growing social divide in this community.

The renovations to the Old Anchor Inn by Gitxaala, and the Metlakatla Seniors Residence have helped; with more First Nations initiatives promised in the future.

Among them the Lax Kw'alaams housing plans in the city still to be fully explained, which were part of the Mayor's December community vision showcase event.

Yet there is clearly going to be a significant housing crunch coming and that is going to make for additional heat on the elected officials at both the municipal and provincial level this summer.

The need for some kind of action on housing has been the current of conversation in the community for a number of years, most recently illustrated in November when another call for some progress was made by a local group.

That social activism on housing coming out of the Tent City days of the fall of 2017.

The Mayor and City Council have spent a lot of the last few years focused on their vision of the Prince Rupert of the future and towards that council goal we've gone through more than a few of those vision plans now in the last five years or so.

All  of them making a contribution to the wonderful little blue print for a futuristic port city playground.

Though one wonders if there is any room in that new Prince Rupert for those of the working poor and seemingly always under pressure middle class; not to mention those growing numbers of residents left behind from the oft mentioned reach of those high paying port related jobs, and who remain in need of affordable housing.

So focused is the Mayor and Council on the future, they seem out of touch at times to the more immediate issues of the  residents living here in the present.

Judging by the angry feedback on the latest round of renoviction notices, there's an entire segment of Prince Rupert's population that is going to be left out of those grand designs and that is something that the City Council membership better start to push towards addressing.

More items of interest on municipal themes can be found through our Council Discussion archive.

1 comment:

  1. What's that? The mayor pointing the finger of blame at everyone except the city? Gosh, I know I'm shocked.