Modular housing in the works for Maple Ridge tent city residents, province says

The Mayor of Maple Ridge said she was not aware the province had purchased three lots on Royal Crescent for temporary modular housing — but maybe that's for the best.

But residents of tent city say supportive housing is not what they're looking for

An information session about new supportive housing planned for three lots on Royal Crescent in Maple Ridge will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on March 15 at the city's Thomas Haney Secondary. The facility is meant to house residents of a local tent city called Anita Place camp. (Valerie Gamache/Radio-Canada)

The province says it has purchased land in Maple Ridge to build temporary modular housing for residents of a long-running tent city.

The province said in a Monday release it had purchased three lots on Royal Crescent, just off Lougheed Highway, to build as many as 55 temporary supportive modular homes in the Fraser Valley community.

Those units, the province says, are intended for homeless campers at Anita Place who have occupied an empty lot half a kilometre away since spring 2017.

"They can't wait any longer," Housing Minister Selina Robinson said in a statement.

The provincial statement said the housing is intended to be temporary and could be ready for fall 2018. It says the look of the housing will be subject to community input.

If the site turns into a permanent supportive housing facility it will go through a municipal rezoning process and seek further public opinion.

The province announced another supportive housing facility in Maple Ridge in January that it says will include 40 shelter beds relocated from elsewhere plus 40 new supportive housing units.

'We wanted the province to step up'

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said the province's purchase of the properties was done without the city's involvement.

But after other attempts to build supportive housing failed in recent years, she said, that might be for the best.

"We did reach a point, as a city, where we wanted the province to step up, take responsibility and tell us where they would like to build something," Read said.

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read says fire risk at the tent city is a concern. (CBC)

Community opposition caused the previous provincial government to drop other proposed sites for supportive housing, she said, "which was difficult for the city and the public."

She says it's too early to say if the Royal Crescent site is a good fit. She wants to get more information about what the facility will look like and how it will be operated before assessing whether or not it fits in the community.

Tent city residents oppose supportive housing

While Read emphasized it was important to build housing for Anita Place campers quickly, those campers were not enthusiastic about the housing on the table.

Ivan Drury with the Alliance Against Displacement accused the province of offering "institutional" housing and not the homes the campers have been fighting for.

"They're basically going to open up... another government-run facility that's basically for people who are prisoners or crazy," camper Dwayne Martin said. "We're neither of the case."

B.C. Housing defines supportive housing as subsidized housing with on-site supports for barriers like addiction or mental health challenges.

In the past, advocates like Drury have criticized the model as too restrictive and limits the autonomy of residents.

The province says an information session will be held on the Royal Crescent site on the evening of March 15 at Thomas Haney Secondary.

About the Author

Liam Britten

Digital journalist

Liam Britten is journalist for CBC Vancouver. You can contact him at liam.britten@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter: @liam_britten.