Langley Meadows residents are still seeking answers on the supportive housing project planned for the former Quality Inn.
“From the sounds of it, people are very concerned,” said Charlene Zablotny, who edits the neighbourhood newsletter put out by the Langley Meadows Community Association.
The LMCA represents both those opposed to and those in favour of the project, Zablotny said. They’re trying to get as much information on the project as possible out to local residents, including those who didn’t attend a recent meeting on the plan hosted by BC Housing and Stepping Stone Community Services Society.
A majority of those who spoke at the Oct. 30 meeting were opposed.
Zablotny said the LMCA has collected questions from its members, and will publish answers from BC Housing and Stepping Stone in an upcoming newsletter.
“There’s been a lot of conversations going on about it,” Zablotny said.
The project is to transform the closed Quality Inn, just off 200th Street, into 49 units of supportive housing for people who are presently homeless. There are more than 200 homeless people in Langley, according to this year’s homeless count.
Questions planned for the next newsletter show some of the concerns in the neighbourhood.
Residents want to know if more homeless people will be attracted to the area, how residents will be vetted, concerns about increased crime, damage to property values, and if neighbours will be consulted.
Stepping Stone executive director Janet Burden said there are some misconceptions about what the project will do.
One comment that turned up at the open house last week, and on social media, was that all the residents will be drug addicts, or that drug addiction is required to become a resident. That is not true.
“Not all homeless people are drug addicts, and not all drug addicts are homeless,” Burden said.
Burden and BC Housing have admitted that they will not be barring people who have addictions from becoming residents.
Addictions are a barrier to finding normal housing for people, Burden said, and the idea is to give people a roof over their head, housing stability, and an opportunity to access programs such as drug treatment.
She promised there will be a lot of community engagment if the project is approved.
“Our plan is to establish a community advisory committee,” Burden said.
It will include representatives from nearby businesses, the LMCA and Langley Meadows PAC, the Langley RCMP, Fraser Health, and possibly the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce.
BC Housing listed the questions raised at the Oct. 30 meeting, and posted the agency’s answers online.
Burden noted that the residents will be chosen for the project. Some people living on the streets may have too many needs to be accommodated in supportive housing. Others are actually able to live more independently – they may be housed with one of the 30 rental subsidies being provided by BC Housing under a separate program.
Langley Township will ultimately determine if the project goes forward. The site needs a rezoning to become supportive housing. Township council will hold a public hearing before voting on rezoning.
What sort of housing are homeless and near-homless people living in right now?
• Homeless camps. Camps have cropped up in public parks, including on the Nicomekl flood plain in Langley City last year. They had to be evicted in the fall before water levels rose and the campground was inundated. A provincial court decision allows homeless people to camp in public parks overnight, but they must pack up their tents during the day. Many homeless campsites do not pack up their tents, and local municipalities have footed the bill for cleaning up debris and garbage, as well.
• Unlicensed “recovery homes.” Set up in single-family rental houses, these facilities claim to be offering drug rehab for their residents, but according to police they are quite often simply flop houses. Langley RCMP and Township bylaws shut down some of these operations in 2016 in Willoughby. Dave Selvage, head of bylaw enforcement in Langley City, said a few tried to pop up there, too, but they were quickly shut down.
• Outbuildings. Burden noted that some poor people will rent sheds and other outbuildings, some of which lack even running water.
• Older housing stock. One of the main sources of marginal housing was aging rental buildings. But it is vanishing. “We’re losing even a lot of that kind of stock,” Burden said. Rapid development means those houses are being demolished to make way for new condos, townhouses, and denser single family housing.
• Existing shelters. The Gateway of Hope remains Langley’s only current homeless shelter. BC Housing money expanded its spaces late last year, in response to the shutdown of local homeless camps on the Nicomekl floodplain.