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North Van women's housing project mostly supported at public hearing

DNV council to vote on 60 Norgate units for women facing homelessness

A plan to build supportive housing for women in North Vancouver’s Norgate neighbourhood won wide community support at a public hearing held Tuesday night.

The District of North Vancouver is considering the five-storey project for 1577 Lloyd Ave.

If approved by council, the 40 studios, two one-bedroom, 12, two-bedroom, four three-bedroom and two four-bedroom units would be rented out exclusively to North Shore women and women-led families facing homelessness. Rents will be either at shelter rates ($375 to $660 per month) or geared to household income ($901 to $1,461 per month).

Under the proposal, the district is putting up the land, which is currently overflow parking for car dealerships, and the province will fund the capital and operating costs. The RainCity Housing and Support Society will manage the building and offer programming.

Beyond the affordable apartments, the building will feature a cafeteria for meal service and common areas used for life and employment skills training, access to work placements and health services, plus 24/7 staffing for support services.

Project largely supported

Supporters of the project who spoke at the hearing outnumbered those opposed by a margin of about 16-6. Council also received close to 100 letters from the public on the matter, the vast majority of which were in support.

Those opposed were mainly concerned about whether the proposal would result in more drug use and social ills in the surrounding streets and business areas.

“I personally don't feel safe to go on a walk after sunset if this project goes through,” said a neighbour who introduced herself as Sahar and did not provide a last name. “I know there are successful stories. I know that not all of these (residents) are going to create problems, but I can bet that one out of 60 can cause a problem.”

Others, however, urged council not to let fear or stereotypes guide their decision, and stressed that the project will save lives by allowing women and their children safety and stability to get their lives on track.

Retired nurse Dana Anthony argued the types of social problems some neighbours were concerned about can only be addressed if housing needs are met first.

“I am very, very anxious to support these kinds of programs for the community and for the next generation. We take care of our mothers, so they can take care of the dear children, and we can break that cycle,” she said.

Speaking as a former staffer in a home for women and children escaping abuse, Judith Brooks told council their project could be key in keeping families together.

“For all of us with a warm bed, a roof over our head and food in the fridge, it's hard to imagine not having all of this. Imagine trying to provide any sort of stability at all to your children as a single mom if you do not have stable affordable housing,” she said. “I can assure you that women need support, they need to have a safe place to move into, and to not face the untenable decision of staying in a dangerous domestic situation to maintain a roof over their children's heads… These women and children deserve better. And you can give it to them. Let's roll.”

Carolyn Neilson, vice-president of employment services for the YWCA, said the need for such housing is growing rapidly.

“We're seeing clients with mental health issues. We're seeing clients that are survivors of domestic violence. Most of those clients are women. These numbers are increasing exponentially during COVID. The numbers are skyrocketing in our community,” she said.

Norgate resident Jeremy Dyson told council his neighbourhood would only become better with the project.

“I think we have a great community to share, and I think our community will only be enriched if we can welcome a broader cross-section of people into it, regardless of income,” he said.

Local business owner Gyula Huszar, however, warned council they should expect blowback if “addicts” are creating problems.

“If the problems persist, I believe that the neighbours that I have will galvanize and push back, very hard against this whole thing,” he said.

Council is expected to vote on the proposal on Monday, Apr. 26. Because the public hearing has been closed, council members can no longer legally receive fresh input from the public.

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