Maple Ridge has agreed to buy a $1 million parcel of land to build a housing project,as part of a plan aimed at addressing the city's growing homeless problem.

The property, a vacant lot, is located at 21375 Lougheed Highway near the Ridge Meadows Hospital. 

In July, the city struck a deal with the province to buy the land, with BC Housing agreeing to build a $15 million full-purpose short and long-term housing.

"The BC Housing proposal is quite different than the emergency shelter model that we have now. The purpose-built facility will provide a more integrated housing approach and stronger support framework," said Mayor Nicole Read.

"Such facilities go a long way in providing support to our community's most vulnerable people, while addressing some of the wider community's desire to reduce crime and improve cleanliness and safety.  The zoning process for the new facilities will provide ample opportunity for community feedback and we all look forward to that discussion."

The news came as a relief to a local organization that has been housing 40 homeless people in an empty mattress store.

Sean Spear of RainCity Housing said the new structure will provide more dignified living conditions for the homeless population.

"This is really great news for us as an organization, and especially the folks who are living in the temporary shelter," Spear said.

Homeless in mattress shop

"It's definitely going to make a big difference," he added.

"We've been running in a temporary renovated mattress shop where 40 people are all really tightly in one room, and this is a big relief to find a more just and dignified place to house folks."

The next step is for council to approve a rezoning application to build the housing, said Wendy McCormick, Maple Ridge's director of recreation and community services.

The agreement says BC Housing will assume the lease of the temporary shelter until the new facility is finished.

The plan is to build an interim building to replace the city's temporary shelter after which a permanent shelter will be constructed.

McCormick said the public will be consulted in the process.

Last spring, the province abandoned plans to transform a local hotel into a homeless shelter after widespread protests. 

With files from Maryse Zeidler