An "urban village" with an emphasis on Indigenous culture and values is being proposed for the VLA neighbourhood of downtown Prince George, B.C.
The complex, run by the Aboriginal Housing Society of Prince George, would have a combination of houses and apartments, as well as elder and child care, educational and support services, a community garden and space for spiritual and cultural practices.
"It's basically taking a very holistic approach ... and making sure that all the things that are needed to make a neighbourhood successful are there," said Christos Vardacostas, executive director of society.
"[To] be born in one place and to grow up there with your family, be able to go to school, be able to be a student, be able to work, raise a family, and to age in place.. I see this as being the future."
Village open to all
Most of the 250 units in the village would be owned by the society, which connects low-income people with Indigenous roots to affordable homes throughout Prince George.
However, other units would be rented out at market rates and other would be available to private ownership.
"It's not meant to be something that's segregated. It's meant to be something that is welcoming and is shared by the neighbourhood," Vardacostas explained.
He said the demand for affordable housing in Prince George is high, with around 400 people on his waiting list.
Vardacostas also said the village would help support the city's growing Indigenous community.
"The population in Prince George has been pretty steady but the urban Aboriginal population has been increasing," he said.
To hear more from Christos Vardacostas, click on 'A proposal to build an urban village:'
Worries about crime, poverty
Not everyone near the proposed village is happy with the idea.
In a letter to the city, Rosa Matrincich writes, "the VLA is known to have both drug and alcohol problems with gangs and vagrants ... What assurances can the owners give us that this will not become another slum area?"
In another letter, Mike Saunders says he is worried subsidized housing will lower the value of his home.
However, others have embraced the idea after attending community engagement meetings hosted by the society.
"I find it extremely exciting and dynamic and a terrific boost," said Coun. Susan Scott after attending one of the meetings.
The support of other councillors will be required because the site of the proposed village will need to be rezoned for the project to proceed.
Vardacostas said he is committed to working with the city and the neighbourhood to make the village a success.
"It's our intention to have our offices there ... having supports that are accessible," he said.
"It's not a private development that's going to be left to the market to determine ... we want people to succeed."
A public hearing and vote on the rezoning will be held at the Prince George city council meeting for March 27.
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