Dunbar Street and 16th Avenue, location of a new social housing development
One of the most controversial social housing projects in Vancouver's history turned sod with little fanfare last week. Organizers say it is evidence of a triumph of public consultation, but also an indication that the public won't pay attention unless there is controversy.
A social housing facility is to be built on City of Vancouver-owned land at West 16th Avenue & Dunbar Street. When it was proposed to be a building that housed homeless people, the shameful NIABY (Not in Anyone's Backyard) group of anonymous opponents set up a website and proceeded to scare the bejeezus out of the neighbourhood.
Public meetings were held where irate members of the audience lashed out against the use of this property to anything related to mental health and homelessness. There were suggestions that property values would be affected, with little evidence to support that outcome. In fact, the price of average home in the area has more than doubled in the past 6 years, well into the seven figures.
Luckily for the community, local political representatives such as MLA Colin Hansen and Councillor Suzanne Anton stood up against opponents, and supported the project. Hansen and Anton both told a hostile room back in 2006 they were in favour of the housing facility.
CityCaucus.com spoke with Darrell Burnham, Executive Director of
Vancouver Coastal Coast Mental Health, who attributed the success of getting buy-in from the community in part to the two-year consultation process of leading up to last week's groundbreaking. "It's a great success story of a community coming to accept having a mental health facility like this in their neighbourhood," remarked Burnham. "We did polling in the area and the figures showed that 89% of people in the community supported having a mental health facility here. It's too bad that we didn't get more coverage at the sod-turning from the media, but I guess the story isn't as interesting without the controversy."
Burnham credits the partnership of several societies who are coming in as managers of the facility. The operations management plan was created after several meetings took place with local stakeholders. Housing Minister Rich Coleman, and as well local MLA Colin Hansen, Minister of Finance, and representatives of the Dunbar Residents Association all attended the groundbreaking last week.
The 16th & Dunbar building is one of eight new facilities being built after an agreement between the City of Vancouver and the Province of BC was hammered out during the last term of council. New facilities are forthcoming – mainly west of Main street and north of 16th Avenue. Proposed locations are along Burrard, 2nd Avenue, and 7th & Fir.
- post by Mike