It’s a development some Victoria city councillors are seeing as a necessary piece to the city’s complex housing puzzle.
With a 0.5 per cent vacancy rate, the transformation of the Mount Edwards Court Apartments into 93 supportive and affordable rental units for seniors could help alleviate some of the city’s housing crunch.
The proposal at 1002 Vancouver St. would convert the existing building into 78 supportive housing units and 15 affordable rental units for seniors over age 50. The Victoria Cool Aid Society was chosen by B.C. Housing to operate the building.
Supportive housing residents could be struggling with poverty, suffer from chronic physical health needs, mental illness, or alcohol or substance abuse. At the facility, they will have access to services on-site such as life skills training, and connections to primary health care, mental health or substance use services.
On Thursday, council, sitting as committe of the whole, voted to send the proposal to a public hearing.
“This is another piece of the puzzle in solving the problems we have with housing in the city,” said Coun. Margaret Lucas. “It all has to go hand in hand, but is this the right place? It’s a difficult one, but it’s a very important piece of the puzzle for me.”
But the project drew concerns from Coun. Geoff Young, who said the number of units is too high for the area, noting the optimum size for that type of facility is 40 to 50 units.
“I think it would be far better … if the numbers were kept down in a range that’s closer to the optimum size, which is significantly smaller than what’s proposed here,” he said.
Others disagreed. Mayor Lisa Helps said new housing is exactly what the city needs.
“We need supportive housing. This proposal at this point, is something that fits, it’s for people who are in their 50s, they’re not really senior, but they’re getting senior and it fits with every plan we have,” she said. “I know there’s been lots of concerns about proximity to the school and that’s based on information that’s old, out of date or speculative. I think this land use is good for this site.”
The project has caused concern for some in the neighbourhood, such as Christ Church Cathedral parents and staff.
Potential residents in the supportive housing units will be subject to a Vulnerability Assessment to determine their eligibility. Illicit substance use will be not permitted on the premise, and 24/7 staffing, including a full-time client services worker, will assist supportive housing residents.
A legal agreement is also being proposed to ensure residents meet specific criteria to live at Mount Edwards and operating obligations are established.
A number of questions will need to be answered and presented to council before the public hearing.