This article is written by and reflects the personal opinion of Penticton city councillor Julius Bloomfield.
“This is not the opinion of council, however, the rest of council is aware of it,” said Bloomfield.
“It is intended to keep the conversation going on social and supportive housing in Penticton.”
Developments in Penticton
There has been plenty of discussion on supportive housing in Penticton lately.
I would like to continue those discussions with a brief look at the subject and how we may be able to handle the demands on the city in the future.
A Little History
To make good decisions on this issue we need to understand how we got to this place. During the heavy tourism decades of the ‘50s ‘60s and ‘70s, Penticton was a mecca for families during the summers, resulting in an explosion of motels throughout the city.
Most of these motels were family run with good income during the seasons that paid a decent living and carried the expenses during the winters. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, the families started to diminish and the numbers of vacationing young adults grew.
These tourists were less concerned with quality accommodation and more price sensitive. This coupled with the motel owners selling their businesses to investors led to lower incomes, resulting in a switch of focus to monthly rentals as an easier way to get a return with minimal work, maintenance and re-investment. Penticton became a mecca for people wanting cheap motel style accommodation for the winter months.
Eventually, the motels became year-round warehousing for the vulnerable sectors of the population and the motel operators acting as de-facto social workers.
In more recent times, the economy has changed significantly whereby these old motels are being sold for redevelopment resulting in the eviction of the monthly renters.
The growing homeless in the city are coming largely from within the city. If some of the larger motels get redeveloped, then we will need more supportive housing just for those residents.
It is true there are other factors such as the prison that add to the homeless numbers, but the largest contributor are the displaced motel residents.
Non-Market Housing Developments
We should acknowledge that there needs to be various levels of supportive housing. For most people the term ‘Supportive Housing’ paints a picture of a clinical housing project with support services.
While this is one type of supportive housing, it certainly isn’t the only type. Supportive housing can mean everything from wet facilities focused on stabilization to minimal assistance low-cost housing.
There is no doubt that the marginalized sectors are far better off in a supportive housing development rather than a poorly equipped outdated motel.
Yet – for every proposed supportive housing development there is a chorus of resistance from the public, especially those that live in the local neighbourhood.
The first part of this puzzle is that we need to establish with the general public that the housing is badly needed.
The next part is to find a working model of operating a housing project that integrates within the neighbourhood.
One answer to the above question is the establishment of a performance bond by the city. Just as a property developer has to commit to a bond – whereby they are required to finish a development as proposed, ensuring that amenity spaces, landscaping and off-site upgrades all get completed – similarly, the city could have the developer of supportive housing projects commit to a bond to ensure the future operation of the project will provide the support services promised and respect and protect the quiet enjoyment of the immediate neighbours.
Should the project result in an increase of crimes in the local neighbourhood that is higher than the historical average for that neighbourhood vs. the city as a whole, then the bond shall be released to the city to be used for greater protective services in that area.
How this service is delivered can be decided by the city. It could include extra police, increased bylaw enforcement patrols or private security service patrols.
The performance bond will give the neighbours some comfort in knowing that the city has their interests in mind when considering a development.
It is a tool that will benefit the neighbours, the operators of facilities and the city in laying out the terms of an approval process.
To report a typo, email: email@example.com.