The sketches of BC Housing’s incoming 36 mobile housing units were presented to Prince Rupert city council, showing the layout of the space to be built for the city’s homeless and at-risk population — and its location next to the Transition House.
“This is the only site that’s available — that the city owns anyways — that has servicing available and is also already appropriately zoned to be able to do this development. In terms of the time necessary when you have to do rezonings and provide servicing, it could take up to a year,” Mayor Lee Brain said at the June 25 council meeting. He added that costs to add services including water, sewage and electrical, would also significantly increase.
The mayor and BC Housing representatives drove through Prince Rupert after the province’s announcement to review city-owned sites. It was ultimately BC Housing’s decision, Brain said, and the city is working as a partner for the project.
“The North Coast Transition Society will be managing these units, which allows them the opportunity to manage them through their existing office,” Brain said. “There are lots of various security measures that are already in place with the Transition House. The staff at the Transition House don’t foresee any complications between having these units next to them.”
The 36 single-occupancy units will include individual kitchenettes and bathrooms, as well as common spaces and laundry facilities available. In a communal kitchen area, NCTS will provide life skills and culinary training. NCTS will also have a 24/7 support service and staff will be onsite at all times.
One parking space will be available for every three units. Zeno Krekic, the city planner presenting the development permit, said it is assumed that the people living in the housing will not have vehicles. Should more parking be required, BC Housing will be responsible.
Concerns from council included crosswalks, outdoor space and its location on Highway 16.
“People don’t slow down on that road,” Councillor Barry Cunningham said, asking if crosswalks had been discussed. “I think it’s something that should be considered because you’re going to get people crossing there. We already have enough problems with people getting hit in crosswalks, nevermind in the middle of nowhere.”
With the Transition House, Gitga’at First Nation building housing in the former Anchor Inn and the new BC Housing units, there will be three supportive housing buildings in the same area.
Councillor Joy Thorkelson said two of the biggest concerns she heard from people who currently live on the street are having a place to spend time outside and being able to safely cross the street. Across Park Avenue from the location is the McKay Street, which is home to the Kaien Anti-Poverty Society and nearby McKay Street Park.
Brain responded, saying the Ministry of Highways and NCTS are discussing highway crossings.
“This is part of BC Housing’s new rapid response. The whole point is to respond quickly to community issues like this,” Brain said. “The choice really becomes whether we approve a project like this, and if we don’t, then we have people who are going to be living on the street.”
Krekic said he will include the crosswalk and landscaping concerns in his transmittal letter with the permit.
“I don’t think we should stop the progress on issuing the development permit, because we are now starting to get into the critical part of the construction season,” Krekic said.
Council moved to issue the development permit.