British Columbia

Controversial supportive housing project in Kelowna to go ahead, with some tweaks

A controversial B.C. Housing project in Kelowna’s Rutland neighbourhood will go ahead despite opposition from tens of thousands of residents, city council decided on Wednesday.

Thousands of residents called on city to rescind approval of B.C. Housing development

An artist's rendering of a 49 unit supportive housing building on McCurdy Road in the city's Rutland neighbourhood. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

A controversial B.C. Housing project in Kelowna's Rutland neighbourhood will go ahead despite opposition from tens of thousands of residents, city council decided on Wednesday. 

The 49-unit supportive housing development was initially proposed as a "wet facility" where residents would be allowed to consume drugs privately in their rooms — a sticking point for many of those who opposed the development.   

"We have had ongoing discussions with B.C. Housing regarding the operating model," Mayor Colin Basran said in council Wednesday. 

"This supportive housing development will be for people who are further along their road to recovery." 

Under the changes, illegal drugs will no longer be permitted although residents can still drink alcohol. There will also now be a nurse on staff seven days a week and additional security for the first six months. 

'Uncharted legal territory'

The project, slated for construction on McCurdy Road, was initially approved by council in mid-June. 

It was met with immediate and vocal opposition. A grassroots uprising against the project gained momentum over the last month, culminating in a recent written petition with 13,000 local signatures calling on Kelowna to reconsider.  

Wednesday's meeting focused on whether the city could revoke the previously granted zoning and development permit. 

But pulling a permit from an already approved development would risk putting Kelowna in "uncharted legal territory," according to city staff.     

Coun. Charlie Hodge, who put forward a motion in council on Wednesday asking for the project to be reconsidered, said he doesn't think the new changes about drug use addresses all the concerns.

"I haven't heard about a change in numbers or a change in size. It's too big for that location," Hodge said. 

"I am not overly confident that it is going to be the success that we need it to be under the design that it is."

The motion was voted down. 

People attending the B.C. Housing meeting on the supportive housing project outline their concerns about the facility in sticky-notes as part of an information gathering exercise. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

Changes don't alleviate concern

Audra Boudreau, who helped lead opposition, said the changes don't alleviate her concerns about the project and worries drug use could be permitted in the future. 

"Where's the contract that says [B.C. Housing] won't change this later?" Boudreau said. "They can change their mind."

It's a fear echoed by Chuck Hardy, who has lived in the area his whole life. 

"They can flip back again and put in a wet facility," he said. "I don't trust them." 

Boudreau said she wants to see a written commitment from B.C. Housing and that she plans to continue the opposition campaign.

With files from Radio West and Blaine Gaffney

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