In Question Period I raised concerns about BC Housing’s process for announcing and engaging the community for their proposed supportive housing project at Prosser Road in Central Saanich.
Instead of accepting the community engagement process has been lacking, the Minister responsible for housing instead tried to deflect blame on me for asking the question.
I want supportive housing projects to be successful, I ask my constituents to open their arms to support marginalized people, and I want our provincial government to get it right. We need an inclusive, open and informed process.
When the supportive development at Prosser Road in Central Saanich was announced, there was very little information made available to the public. That was a month ago. I first heard about the project in the media at the time of the announcement and just had my first briefing this week. There are many questions still to be answered.
For the last month, the fear and anxiety in the community has been increasing, and where information lacks, people are filling the gaps on their own. Every day, this government is losing ground, not just in the neighbourhood but also for the potential future residents of this project. This project was supposed to help marginalized people. Instead, the process has further stigmatized people who do not need more obstacles put in their way.
Thank you to the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. I appreciate it. You’re a minister.
We are not just in the business of building housing units, but rather, we should be committed to nurturing community. Our effort should be more than just buying hotels and dropping units in the ground. The government must do the difficult work of building neighbourhoods.
My question is to the Minister Responsible for Housing. Does he believe the process his ministry has undertaken in Central Saanich has created a safe and supportive atmosphere for the surrounding neighbourhood and the future residents of his project?
Hon. D. Eby:
I look to all members in this House when government is opening new housing for vulnerable people to work with us to address misconceptions, to address myths and concerns but also, when there are real problems, to bring them to our attention so that we can address them. I don’t pretend for a second that this is not incredibly challenging work and that there will not be problems. Sure there will be problems, but all of us have to work together to address them.
The member talks about building neighbourhoods, building community. I heard him, in his two-minute statement, talk about, even before a single person has been identified to move into this building, the impact that it is going to have on the surrounding community.
Data shows really clearly, when you look at the most obvious metric about what an impact of a supportive housing unit would be, the impact on the value of housing around it, the price people are willing to pay to move next door to one of these units, the values are not impacted. When people are voting with their dollars where they want to live, they’re happy to live beside supportive housing, because it works.
It doesn’t mean that there are never problems. It doesn’t mean we don’t have to work together to address them. But even before a single person is identified to talk about the impact — that’s not helpful.
I’m asking the member to work with me — I’m glad to work with him; he had his briefing — to get people inside, to get them good, high-quality housing, out of tents. This is our priority. We’re in reactive mode right now. We’re moving into proactive mode with the homelessness strategy. I will need his support, and I’m counting on it.
The member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
I appreciate the minister’s response. However, I think it needs to be pointed out that had the minister truly wanted to have my support on this project, he would have offered me an opportunity to learn about the project that they were proposing in advance of making the announcement.If this minister has his arms truly open, he would have had that conversation with us in advance so that we could have learned about exactly what is going to be built in the neighbourhood. This government knows, and there need not be any suggestion otherwise, that I’m anything less than supportive of supported housing. This is the work that I’ve been doing, along with my colleagues on the other side, over the last 4½ years, so it’s absurd to suggest anything otherwise.
This is the exact kind of stigmatization that happens. You raise questions about this, and you get called…. You get suggested that you’re opposed to it. The reality of it is, is that the neighbourhood is filling in the gaps on their own, because the information is not forthcoming. We know that when we’re building communities, information flow is critically important.
My question…. You can continue to chirp at me all you want, Minister.
Member, please continue.
Members will come to order.
What is the minister going to do to accommodate the needs of the neighbourhood, regain the confidence of the community that he’s proposing a project in. Of course, these projects need to go in communities, and I support that. I support diversity. I support inclusion. The suggestion otherwise is ridiculous.
What are we going to do in order to prepare the way for the proposed future residents of this community and this neighbourhood to feel welcome? Because the gap has already been created in a month-long situation where there’s been a lack of information.
Hon. D. Eby:
The member should note who is cheering along with him. The members of the opposition, who built this crisis, who said that addressing homelessness through units that they were providing…. The units they were providing were mats on the floor. The member should be aware of who’s cheering along with him in his questions today.
This housing is supportive housing. There’s a challenge. It’s a new project. There needs to be community engagement. B.C. Housing is doing that community engagement. Service providers haven’t been chosen. Residents haven’t been chosen. The engagement is a legitimate engagement with the community.
So you have to announce that the project is coming before you can engage on it. And to suggest that we would just show up and say, “Here’s exactly going to happen. Sorry, we’re going to engage, but we’ve already made the decisions,” would be problematic. The member wants all the information in advance. The information doesn’t exist yet. B.C. Housing is still building it.
We’re moving as quickly as we can to get people into real supported housing. I know that the member and I agree on this. That’s why I’m frustrated, in some respects, with the tone of his question and some of his suggestions, because we’re on the same page. We want to get people into good-quality supportive housing. That’s what builds neighbourhoods and communities.
Hon. D. Eby:
That’s what makes a difference. It’s not mats on the floor.
If the members of the opposition are cheering along with you, Member, that should be a yellow flag