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Two petitions stir up affordable housing debate with opposite views

Contrasting opinions from city residents regarding proposed Prince Rupert housing development
In answer to a petition opposing the location of a proposed housing development on 11th Ave. E., Paul Lagace tenant advocate with Prince Rupert Unemployment Action Centre responded with a supportive petition on March 8. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Two petitions — one in favour and one opposed — to a 70-unit affordable housing development slated for 11th Ave East are highlighting the stark and contrasting opinions as to where people should live in the city.

The first online petition, posted on March 6 on by a group identifying themselves as Concerned Citizens of Prince Rupert (CCPR), opposes the Lax Kw’alaams WAAP Housing Society (LKWHS) construction saying the location isn’t suitable nor is the prospect of having more people live in the area. The proposed development is a partnership between LKWHS, BC Housing and the City of Prince Rupert.

But a second petition, called Revive Prince Rupert 2021/2022, and begun by Prince Rupert Unemployment Action Centre housing advocate Paul Lagace, rejects those statements.

The Revive Prince Rupert petition gained more than 430 signatures in less than two days, while the CRPR petition was closed down with 90 signatures after just one day. The petition website does not list the names of initiators or reasons a petition is closed.

“We do not believe this location has been well-thought-out beyond the immediate future and the housing pressures that come along with that,” states the CCPR petition. “As it stands now, a lot of stigma is attached to high-density BC housing/apartment sites - this stigma serves to draw a line in the sand between various socioeconomic groups and as a result, we continue to see blatant racism/classism run rampant in this city.”

“From a practical standpoint, surrounding property values fall, affecting those pre-existing in the neighbourhood, and the area becomes less desirable. This can be seen in most of the high-density buildings and their surrounding neighbourhoods in Prince Rupert.”

“The area of interest is currently zoned residential and we firmly feel that a large-scale project such as this one would have a negative effect on the area,” the petition in opposition states.

Some of the language used in the CRPR petition was not helpful, and “it did spark a division that we don’t need,” Legace said in response.

Lagace did say some of his own language is tongue-in-cheek but that the subject matter is serious.

“As it stands now, a lot of stigma might be attached to a 70-unit BC housing/apartment site, but not in our neighbourhood – we will welcome these folks with open arms. This stigma might serve to draw a line in the sand between various socioeconomic groups – but again, we firmly believe that housing should not be a privilege but a basic human right – a necessity that we all need access to. And since every person and family in the city needs this, as a result, we stand united with our fellow citizens, so that we will no longer see blatant racism/classism run rampant in this city,” Legace’s petition states.

“From a practical standpoint, surrounding property values should increase, and the neighbourhood becomes more desirable. It is a win-win situation for everyone,” he said.

The CRPR petition also cites ecological and environmental concerns as the signators are ‘deeply saddened’ to lose a wooded area nearby which is outlined in a map attached to the petition. As well, traffic density is an issue that needs to be considered for safety.

“Why are we considering destroying one of the last remaining forested areas within the city. Hays Creek runs through the site where there are fish and other habitats among the lush forest. We regularly see deer, wolves, and eagles inhabiting this land,” the CRPR petition states.

“I was amazed how you can talk so much about forests, birds and trees, which I love too, yet forget the people equation,” Legace said.

Legace points out that the map attached to the original petition showing the forest area to be demolished is not the portion of land designated for construction.

“It’s very misleading. If you look at that you think they’re ripping down the entire forest …” he said. “(The area) is overseeing basically a cliff. It’s all dead wood, you can not walk through there. It’s non-accessible. … It’s particularly misleading.”

READ MORE: Proposed residential rezoning draws ire of local residents

Legace said there is cost-effectiveness to housing density and with the lack of available land any new housing should be welcomed.

“New housing in the city should be exciting,” he said citing the recent example of the Cedar Village housing complex built in the city.

“The bar has been set. So why should we expect that bar not to be raised,” he said. “I’ve heard of some of the design work (for LKWHS) and it’s going to be amazing.”

“Everybody’s saying we need affordable housing. There’s a housing crisis, even the people that wrote that petition agreed,” he said. “… We need something to do, now. So, if we’re in for that, why can’t we all be in it together? Really, affordable housing needs to be in every neighbourhood.”

“I think we need to embrace everyone. That’s really what it comes down to it. Let’s start getting rid of the ‘us and them’.”

“That might be pie in the sky idealism, but I believe in that stuff. I believe that’s a kinder Prince Rupert. That’s the Prince Rupert I want to live in. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for.”

 K-J Millar | Journalist 
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