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B.C. Housing will start talking about modular housing for Maple Ridge

City and province will work on improving tent city; locations for modular housing on map.
Tracy Scott (left) and Jasmine Daly stand on a footbridge over a water trench that residents have built to redirect water at Anita Place Tent City on Tuesday. They are appealing for donations of plastic pallets to raise the tents off the ground to keep them warm and dry. Plastic pallets are needed because of fire safety regulations. Donations can be dropped off at the camp. (Colleen Flanagan/ THE NEWS)

B.C. Housing will hold a public meeting about a modular housing project in Maple Ridge, so people at Anita Place Tent City can get shelter this winter.

“B.C. Housing is committed to an information session around the modular housing … so there’s that chance to hear from the public to come hear what the strategy is. So that’s the commitment that’s been made,” Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith said Tuesday.

“There are about 20 sites all over Maple Ridge that B.C. Housing is looking at right now, for the modular piece.”

The sites are indicated in red on a map, and appear in west Maple Ridge (along Lougheed Highway and north of that), several in downtown (including the Haney Bypass), in Silver Valley, Albion and Webster’s Corners, as well as north, south and east of the latter.

There’s no timeline for that meeting, nor is it clear at what point in the process the consultation will occur. But the goal is to get modular units built as soon as possible.

“That’s the beauty of the modular units. They go up fast,” added D’Eith.

They can be built quickly, then removed quickly, once permanent housing is found.

The Anita Place Tent City location itself has also been considered as a site for modular units, but D’Eith said it’s a difficult location

He said 2,000 modular units are going up around B.C.

“Maple Ridge, it’s tougher because of what Maple Ridge has gone through.”

Last year, two possible locations for a permanent, $15-million supportive housing complex in Maple Ridge were rejected after public outcry.

“We do have a lot of people who are coming into the winter right now and we have to make sure they’re safe and also the public, too,” D’Eith said.

Any modular housing project will have wrap-around support services for the residents so they can address personal issues.

In the meantime, B.C. Housing and the City of Maple Ridge will try to improve conditions in the tent city on St. Anne Avenue, in the downtown.

B.C. Supreme Court accepted, on Monday, an agreement between the city and lawyers for the camp, allowing for a delay of the city’s injunction application to clear Anita Place.

Monday’s ruling was the formalization of a tentative agreement reached by the City of Maple Ridge and Pivot Legal Society, which represents the campers.

“We are adjourning our injunction application to pursue our shared goals for safety,” city lawyers said.

According to Pivot Legal lawyer Anna Cooper, the agreement means the campers, the city and B.C. Housing will work together to address “life safety issues” at the camp.

The City of Maple Ridge will also work with B.C. Housing to improve sanitation at the camp by installing modular washrooms and bringing in running water.

Cooper said that the agreement will provide camp residents with the means to comply with fire safety regulations.

“The order states that, as long as campers are putting in their best efforts to obey the fire safety regulations, the city will assist them in making camp fire-safe,” said Cooper.

Last spring, Maple Ridge also sought an injunction, but suspended that.

B.C. Housing stated in affidavit that its first priority “is to get the residents indoors by building temporary modular housing,” involving between 40-50 “work-camp style” units of modular housing to “meet the immediate needs of homeless people in Maple Ridge.”

Maple Ridge Coun. Gordy Robson was happy to hear B.C. Housing will start the consultation, saying council has been asking for that for more than a month.

“We’re very solid, we’re not going to do anything until we’ve had that meeting.”

But he objects to improving conditions at the camp, saying that is “an excellent way to increase the population of the camp. If you make it good enough, they’ll come from all over the valley.”

He said numbers at the camp have dropped to the point that people should be helped individually.

He added a decision about the possible re-location of the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries shelter must also be made.

Jesse Stretch, who served on the former MLAs’ citizens’ committee that sought a location for a supportive housing shelter, said that finding people homes or shelter doesn’t resolve the personal problems they are facing. Most people are homeless because they can’t manage their lives, he added.

“I think it’s just a process of throwing Band-Aids on bullet wounds.”

He hasn’t heard recently what help Fraser Health is offering to people in the tent city.

Ivan Drury, with the Alliance Against Displacement, opposes the position of some on council who want community consultations before any shelter or supportive or modular housing project is started in Maple Ridge.

That’s a stalling tactic, and a waste of time talking to people who don’t want any shelter, he said.

“There’s no reason to do any consultation.”

Only the homeless people who need to be brought indoors need to be consulted, Drury said.

Two hundred units of permanent social housing are needed, he added.

“To waste time, consulting with people who will never be happy with any possible site, because of their ideological lenses, is irresponsible.”

Some on council are opposed to any kind of shelter because of coming election, he added.

Council just needs to decide a location for modular housing and announce that, Drury said.

D’Eith said the next step is the permanent supportive housing complex for Maple Ridge and said the government is still working on the larger issues such as mental health and poverty reduction.

Locations for a modular housing facility in Maple Ridge, as proposed by B.C. Housing.