Formal Comment on TMH

with one comment

 
The following formal comment from Jeanette Jones and Joseph Jones was submitted to housing@vancouver.ca by email at 9:02 am on 18 December 2017.

 
Comment on Temporary Housing Proposal for 4410 Kaslo Street —
Community Information Sessions on 13 and 14 December 2017

18 December 2017

 
We support the concept of building temporary modular housing (TMH) as one way to help house the homeless population of Vancouver. We have particular concerns related to this proposed TMH site.

 
Location of the site

The site at 4410 Kaslo Street is well situated in relation to transit and to Slocan Park. However, it is not within easy walking distance of most other amenities. The closest area with shops and services is on Kingsway, seven blocks to the south. But much of the streetscape there currently consists of empty buildings awaiting redevelopment under the Norquay Plan. The nearest grocery store is Banana Grove at Slocan and East 22nd Avenue, eight blocks away. The Renfrew Community Centre and the Renfrew Library are equally distant. The shopping area and services around the Joyce SkyTrain Station lie 15 blocks away.

Eight blocks can be a pleasant walk in good weather for healthy people. However, in cold or rainy weather it is a long way to go to supply even minor needs. The difficulty increases for tenants with mobility challenges, or for mothers with infants. Shops and services need to be accessible if tenants are to learn to live independently.

To help mitigate the effects of the distance to shops and services:

       •  Every tenant should be issued a monthly one-zone transit pass
       •  A van and driver should be available to residents on a frequent and regular basis
       •  Both individual units and communal kitchen space should be designed with more than
           standard storage, especially refrigerator space

       •  If tenants lack the skills to plan meals in advance and to shop for groceries
           in an organized way, teaching these skills should be a priority for the service provider

At a more general level,

Easy accessibility of shops and services should be added to the TMH site selection criteria.

 
Tenant mix

We support designating 4410 Kaslo as a coed residence. The selected operator (Atira) has keen interest and extensive experience in providing housing for women. Therefore,

A majority of the tenants should be women, to take full advantage of the operator’s interest and experience.

 
Transitioning residents to permanent housing

As the lives of tenants become more stable, many would need to transition to more independent, permanent housing. Favorable outcomes are most likely to be achieved if these tenants have an option to move from TMH into non-market housing while remaining in the same neighbourhood.

The nearby 2400 Motel site at Slocan Street and Kingsway has been identified in the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan as the heart of the Norquay Village area. Future development of this site is already specified to deliver 500 housing units, with 100 of those non-market. Much needed indoor and outdoor community space as well as additional shops (including a grocery store) and services would also be provided. Seven years into the Norquay Plan, Kingsway is experiencing major redevelopment. Yet the 2400 Motel site has shown no sign of delivering on the major amenity promise to Norquay residents, even though the City of Vancouver (CoV) already owns the land.

The City of Vancouver needs to begin developing the 2400 Motel site according to specifications outlined in the 2010 Norquay Plan and the Norquay Public Benefits Strategy.

 
Distribution of TMH sites

Like every other Vancouver neighbourhood, Norquay / Renfrew-Collingwood needs to do its share to house Vancouver’s homeless population. We look forward to additional TMH proposals that will distribute this housing more equitably across the entire city.

Neighbourhoods that do not help the homeless by hosting a TMH site should pay a surtax designated toward provision of new non-market housing.

 
Process

The December 13 and 14 meetings were advertised as “Community Information Sessions.” But very little concrete information was available.

The community’s most pressing question — Who is going to be living in this particular TMH facility? — remains largely unanswered. The closest approximation to an answer that we were able to ascertain could be summarized as: “Tenants will be male and female homeless people already living in the neighbourhood. We don’t know who they are, how many of them there are, or where they are. But everything will work out fine — just trust us.” This response does not reassure current community residents. Instead, it leaves us feeling frustrated at best (if we believe that CoV and its partners honestly don’t have the information) or cynical and angry at worst (if we believe that CoV and its partners have the information but won’t share it with us).

Community consultation at this early stage does make it more possible for community residents to have real input on some issues. But until we have a better idea of who the tenants of the building will be, it is difficult to make meaningful comment on other topics.

The CoV desire to get TMH built as quickly as possible is understandable. However, a complex network of city, provincial and non-profit agencies is involved in making this happen. Proceeding too quickly creates stress, confusion and communication problems. Not all staff at the information session was on the same page.

Information is not always presented in a timely and forthright manner. Several community residents attending the sessions were looking for a distribution map of identified TMH sites and a list of criteria for choosing these sites. CoV has this information and it should have been provided on boards at the session. Community residents unable to attend either of the information sessions need to have timely web access to the posted boards if we are to submit comment by the December 22 deadline. As of this morning (Monday, December 18) the boards from the information sessions have not yet been made available on CoV’s TMH web site.

The next community information session needs to be scheduled as soon as CoV and its partners have a more accurate picture of who will be living in this building. This should not be a matter of simply presenting a proposed development project. Community residents would like to be informed of the approximate tenant mix in terms of service level, current area of residence, male vs. female, and single vs. family (if applicable).

The City of Vancouver has not built a relationship of trust with this particular area of Renfrew-Collingwood. The area around the 29th Avenue SkyTrain Station was abruptly cut off from Norquay in 2009 after 3½ years of the planning process for the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre. Specific promises made in connection with the future development of Ravine Way (a linear park/pedestrian connection between Slocan Park and Norquay Park) have been retracted. Much better attention needs to be paid to process if CoV intends to introduce a SkyTrain Station Area Planning initiative here in early 2018.

 
Jeanette and Joseph Jones
 

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Written by eyeonnorquay

18 December 2017 at 9:42 am

One Response

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  1. I am supportive of TMH, and have shared some of these same concerns with the city already. I was disappointed, but not surprised at the lack of information at the “Community Information Session”. While I was at the session, I sensed I was in the minority, as most folks there seemed opposed. I appreciate that you are addressing specific concerns and offering potential solutions, while supporting the TMH concept, thank you for putting this out there.

    Jen

    19 December 2017 at 9:21 am


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