This story has been updated to correct an error. The previous version indicated the project would be Indigenous housing, which is not the case.
The District of North Vancouver and the province have partnered with a non-profit organization to build a supportive housing project for people experiencing homelessness.
The Ministry of Housing announced Wednesday plans for a 65-unit, six-storey building on the northeast corner of Keith Road and Mountain Highway, which will be operated by the Lu’ma Native Housing Society. Five of the units will be for people requiring complex care, supported by Vancouver Coastal Health.
“There’s a critical need to provide more supportive housing and complex care for people experiencing homelessness on the North Shore,” said Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon, in a release, adding that the project would provide the “safe and secure homes and the supports [people] need to begin rebuilding their lives.”
District of North Vancouver Mayor Mike Little said the municipality has been in talks with the province to build supportive housing on the district-owned land for “many, many years.”
The affordable homes will be targeted for unhoused people on the North Shore. The project, however, will be subject to a rezoning by District of North Vancouver council.
Supportive housing project frequently face opposition from the community, but Little said the one coming before council will be very carefully designed and managed.
“The nature of the housing is relatively low barrier but properly resourced and staffed and designed to support that population.… Right now, lots of these kinds of services are being offered haphazardly in places that were not designed for it,” he said. “If you design the building correctly, then you can manage a lot of the impacts within the structure itself and then it doesn’t have a spillover effect into the neighbourhood… I think it will be a much more effective way to manage the challenges that come with these kinds of supportive housing.”
North Vancouver-Lonsdale NDP MLA Bowinn Ma said the district stepping up to partner on the project has been “huge” in advancing it this far. But she acknowledged it may face blowback in the neighbourhood, putting its future success at council at risk.
“It is not uncommon for projects like this for very vulnerable populations to face resistance in communities, but I am extremely hopeful the compassion of North Vancouver will shine through,” she said. “The people who are being housed in these projects are already here in North Vancouver, but they’re living in desperate situations. They’re living in their cars. They’re living on the streets.”
People who move into the building will benefit from ready access to services and the stability that comes from having a safe and secure place to live, and the entire North Shore will be better for it, Ma said.
“We can’t underestimate how positively life-changing stable housing like this can be for vulnerable populations,” she said. “None of us benefit from having vulnerable community members living in tents in the forest instead of stable housing.”
The Lu’ma Native Housing Society currently owns and/or operates more than 1,250 supportive housing units in B.C.
Kevin Eaton, executive director of supportive housing for the society, welcomed their inclusion in the project, noting it is fitting that it is going on unceded and stolen traditional lands of the səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations
“Supporting the unhoused and those at risk of being unhoused is paramount for Lu’ma Native Housing Society, with our mandate to serve the urban Indigenous community with affordable housing options along a continuum,” he said in a release.
The project will face its first public vote by council on Tuesday night. The province has granted municipalities the power to waive public hearings for redevelopments such a this one, but Little said the intention is to hold a public hearing before a final vote, likely later in the fall.
The assessed value of the four lots where the project is proposed to be built is a combined $8.84 million.