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Despite questions, Mount Edwards proposal to go to public hearing

A proposal to rezone Mount Edwards Court for use as supportive and independent housing for people 50 and over will go to public hearing — subject to several council questions being answered.
The proposal for the Mount Edwards Court building calls for 93 units for people 50 and older.


A proposal to rezone Mount Edwards Court for use as supportive and independent housing for people 50 and over will go to public hearing — subject to several council questions being answered.

Victoria city councillors, who have received hundreds of pages of correspondence on the facility over the past year, want more information on the proposed units, the residents and the number of times police, fire and ambulance have been called to the area.

The proposal was put forward by the Cool Aid Society, which would operate the facility, on behalf on B.C. Housing. It calls for 93 units for people 50 and older. No illicit drug use would be permitted, and no one with a history of violence would be allowed to live there.

Coun. Geoff Young said he has some “significant concerns” about the proposal.

“The size of the operation, I think, is my major concern and the number of supportive units that’s being proposed,” Young said, adding that literature would suggest 40 to 50 is the optimal number of units.

“I don’t think in a housing crisis like we have, we can afford to have empty spaces and empty rooms that are not being utilized to give people housing,” said Coun. Jeremy Loveday.

Mayor Lisa Helps said the proposal is exactly what is needed in the city.

“We need more supportive housing for people who are getting older and we need more affordable housing,” she said.

The proposal calls for 78 units of supportive housing and 15 studio and one-bedroom independent-living units.

Poverty will have been an issue for most residents. Cool Aid said some residents will have chronic physical health needs, be managing a mental illness or a brain injury, be working to overcome social isolation, have mild to moderate cognitive or developmental challenges, or be working on recovery from substance use.

The province bought the former seniors care facility, at 1002 Vancouver St., for $3.6 million last year. It is being used as transitional housing for people who were staying at the former tent city outside the provincial courthouse, housing 38 people at a time.

It has prompted criticism from neighbours, including parents of students at Christ Church Cathedral School, who have cited safety and security concerns and problems of drug use and neighbourhood disruption.

In response to concerns, Cool Aid has said it is willing to enter into an agreement that no illicit drug use be permitted on the premises and that clients, all of whom would be over 50, would have to go through extensive screening.

Coun. Marianne Alto noted that the province has the authority to override municipal zoning, making the application “a courtesy.” The city’s role, she said, is in land use — not the behaviour of individuals who might live there.

Council should be “very cautious that in providing guidance that we’re not stepping into the realm of dictating behavioural considerations, unduly,” Alto said.

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said council tries to mitigate neighbourbood impacts in all sorts of applications, such as locating a business’s driveway so it doesn’t bother the neighbours, or restricting hours for deliveries.

“This is not a rarity, in that we’re just looking at this operation and the individuals that are going to be in this building,” she said.

“We look at operating agreements and how to make the application work in the neighbourhood and for the neighbours in many applications.”

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Some of the information that council wants

• A rundown of the number of calls for service by police, fire and ambulance to Mount Edwards since it has been used as transitional housing, and to nearby areas such as Pioneer Square

• Operational experience about facilities such as Fairway Woods, Hillside Terrace, Olympic Vista, and Cottage Grove

• The demographic of current residents

• An explanation of the tool to be used to screen potential residents

• The extent of the ban on use of illicit substances and whether it will be limited to use on site

• Whether pets will be permitted

• Whether units will be accessible