Cool Aid Shelter and Housing Programs to Expand

News Release – For Immediate Release: January 22, 2008

Ministry of Forests and Range and Minister responsible for Housing and City of Victoria

New Supportive Housing for Victoria’s Homeless

Victoria – The Province and the City of Victoria have agreed to expedite more than 170 new and upgraded housing units to reduce homelessness, including the relocation and expansion of the Streetlink emergency shelter, Minister responsible for Housing Rich Coleman and Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe announced today.

“By funding predevelopment costs, such as architect plans and building consultants, the Province is ensuring construction begins as soon as possible,” said Coleman. “The City is committing land, and designating an employee to the approval process. Our partnership is taking care of costs and procedures usually borne by the developer, and by doing so, we are fast-tracking the building of these
homes.”

“Victoria has strong community consensus on homelessness, as reflected by the recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force report released in October. The people of Victoria recognize that housing the homeless and providing support services where they can be accessed by our most vulnerable citizens is a priority,” said Lowe. “The City of Victoria will do all it can to ensure that work can get underway quickly on these sites.”

The Province and the City have signed a memorandum of understanding that will lead to the housing units being established at three locations. Fifty-five existing shelter beds at Streetlink will be relocated to a city-owned property at 535 Ellice St., on which a new development will provide 80 shelter beds. The site will also have approximately 24 new supportive housing units. Streetlink’s current site at 1634 Store St. will be redeveloped into 15 new supportive housing units, expanding on the existing 26 units at the adjoining Swift House. In addition, a provincially owned social housing site at 950 Humboldt St. will be redeveloped with an anticipated 53 new supportive housing units.

“Every day, we work with the individuals and face the reality that homelessness is one of Victoria’s most urgent and complex challenges,” said Kathy Stinson, executive director of Victoria Cool Aid Society, the operator of both the Ellice Street and Streetlink/Swift House sites. “We’ve outgrown our current Streetlink location. This proposal will help us with our mission of eliminating homelessness by expanding our ability both to provide shelter and reach out with supportive services.”

“Providing shelter for the homeless and supportive services to transition people from the streets into affordable housing makes our streets and our neighbourhoods safer,” said Darlene Hollstein, chair of the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA). “The DVBA, which represents approximately 1,800 property and business owners, fully supports the recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force in the areas of housing, mental health, and addictions.”

The provincial contribution to pay for predevelopment costs is part of a $41-million commitment to help break the cycle of homelessness that was announced on Oct. 12, 2007. It builds on the provincial housing strategy, Housing Matters BC, announced in October 2006. The Province has allocated $360 million this year towards shelters and affordable housing.

Public consultation will occur consistent with the City’s established policies and practices for development permit applications and rezoning, with the objective of commencing construction on the Humboldt and Ellice St. sites by the end of 2008. The redevelopment of the Streetlink site will begin in 2010, following completion of the Ellice St. development.

The memorandum of understanding is available at:

www.bchousing.org/programs/homelessness/municipal_approvals

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Media contacts:

Patricia Morrison, BC Housing
604 456-8895 or 604 314-1458

Katie Josephson, City of Victoria
250 361-0210 or 250 217-8343

John Crean, Victoria Cool Aid Society
250 383-1977

For more information on government services or to subscribe to the Province’s news feeds using RSS, visit the Province’s website at www.gov.bc.ca .


Backgrounder

January 22, 2008

Ministry of Forests and Range and Minister responsible for Housing and City of Victoria

New Housing for Homeless in Victoria Memorandum

he memorandum of understanding between the Province and the City of Victoria commits to building
over 170 units of new and upgraded social and supportive housing in Victoria. The new housing
developments will be created on three sites: Humboldt Street, Ellice Street and the Streetlink/Swift
House site on Store Street.

Humboldt Street

  • Located at 950 Humboldt Street, this provincially owned development currently provides 14
    units of social housing.
  • Built in the 1950s, this development is outdated and costly to maintain. These older buildings
    are located on under-utilized land, zoned for higher density within the Humboldt Valley
    Precinct Neighbourhood Plan. The current zoning allows for the redevelopment.
  • Redevelopment will provide approximately 53 self-contained studio and one-bedroom units of
    supportive housing with space for support services.
  • Current tenants will be relocated to other suitable subsidized housing options.
  • The Province will issue a proposal call to select a non-profit society to operate the development and will lease the site to the successful proponent for a nominal fee for a period of 60 years.
  • The City will continue to exempt the site from property taxes as long as it continues to provide
    housing and services for people who would otherwise be homeless.
  • The building will be designed to LEED Gold Certification or equivalent standards.

Ellice Street

  • Located at 535 Ellice Street, this city-owned site is currently under-utilized park space in a
  • light-industrial area. A removal of the parks designation, a rezoning and an amendment to the
  • Official Community Plan will be required for this project to proceed.
  • New construction will provide about 80 shelter beds, 24 self-contained supportive housing
  • units, plus space for support and transition services which can be converted into an additional
  • 20 temporary beds for extreme weather conditions.
  • Under the Provincial Emergency Shelter Program, Ellice Street will provide gateway services
  • to facilitate the movement of homeless persons to permanent housing, support services and
  • where possible, employment.
  • The building will be designed so it can be converted over time into permanent, supportive
  • housing.
  • Victoria Cool Aid Society (VCAS) will be the non-profit operator.
  • The City will lease the site to VCAS for nominal fee for a period of 60 years.
  • The City will exempt the operation from property taxes as long as it continues to provide
  • housing and support services for people who would otherwise be homeless.
  • The building will be designed to LEED Gold Certification or equivalent standards.

Streetlink/Swift House

  • Located at 1634 Store Street, this downtown Victoria emergency shelter, originally built for 55
    beds, currently offers up to 95 beds during cold weather periods.
  • The conversion will provide approximately 15 new supportive housing units expanding on 26
    adjoining units at Swift House, located at 469 Swift Street.
  • Streetlink will remain open as a shelter until the completion of the new Ellice Street site.
  • VCAS will continue as the non-profit operator after the conversion.
  • The City will continue to exempt the site from property taxes as long as it continues to provide
    housing and services for people who would otherwise be homeless.

Process

  • The memorandum of understanding is signed by the Province and the City.
  • The Province will pay all costs to design the housing, through to the issuance of development
    and building permits, including consultant fees and disbursements for the three sites.
  • The Province will arrange all capital and operating funding.
  • The City will make land available for redevelopment.
  • The City will designate a staff member to ensure the municipal approval process is expedited.
  • The City will meet the costs of all development permit fees, development cost charges and
    other municipal fees and charges for these projects.

Victoria Cool Aid Society

Since 1968, the Victoria Cool Aid Society has provided a wide range of programs including supported
housing, community health and dental services, emergency shelter, and a casual labour pool, for those who need it most. Cool Aid is well known for their work in addressing issues related to housing, such as accessibility, affordability, alternative housing programs and homelessness. They are an active participant in a variety of regional, provincial and national networks and organizations which work together to improve services, maximize effectiveness and influence policy.