While B.C. Housing scouts for a location for modular homes for the homeless in Maple Ridge, Ron Jones says he may have a solution available through land he owns in Pitt Meadows.
Jones, a land owner and developer in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, has offered 11 acres on the northwest corner of Lougheed Highway and Harris Road as a possible location. The property is east of Meadows Golf Centre, a driving range and batting cage, and west of Harris Road.
He said it’s well suited as a site for temporary, modular homes, and later for a permanent supportive housing complex, because it’s on a highway with bus routes and access to SkyTrain in Coquitlam. Shopping, parks and relative proximity to hospitals are also features of the location. Plus, it is in the Agricultural Land Reserve, and not near any neighbours who might object.
Jones has also offered to provide up to 70 modular units that could be leased by B.C. Housing. That would save B.C. Housing the capital cost of putting up a building.
B.C. Housing is considering 21 possible locations in Maple Ridge for the temporary facility, to allow the housing of people in Anita Place Tent City, just off the Haney Bypass.
Some of those properties are located as far east as Webster’s Corners and north to Silver Valley. The agency is supposed to have a public meeting to explain the project, which is one of the conditions for the support of Maple Ridge council.
Jones wrote both local MLAs, Lisa Beare and Bob D’Eith, about his offer a few weeks ago. Jones was told his letters would be forwarded to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and on Wednesday someone from BC Housing got back to him.
”The units wouldn’t take up any more than four acres, so they could have about three acres in garden,” Jones said. Operating a farm could be part of the healing program, said Jones, adding that BC Housing does have a model where supportive housing takes place within a farm setting.
“The property is available there for them to do something with. There are no neighbours to object to this thing. There’s nobody for them to bother like in Maple Ridge.”
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said it was considerate of Jones to make the offer.
“That really warms my heart to hear that,” she added.
“It needs to be located somewhere. B.C. Housing needs to choose the best location.”
Jones said he’s making the offer because the property is just sitting there. He’s owned it for 20 years, with the hope that at some point it could be developed commercially, as the north Lougheed area proceeds. But that’s a long-term goal and development of the north Lougheed commercial area, east of Harris Road, is on indefinite hold.
“This isn’t going to happen in my lifetime.”
Mainly, he just wants to help resolve the issue of finding a place for people to live.
“I see where I can offer something good to the community … but I think we have a responsibility in our community to make life better for everybody,” Jones said.
“I think we all have a responsibility for doing it. Everybody can be naysayers. But we have to advance it somehow.”
Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker said he’s willing to consider the location, providing the safety of Pitt Meadows is assured.
“My first priority on this or any other issue has to be the safety and security of my community.”
But he wants Pitt Meadows to be part of the solution in dealing with the problems of society and wants to be involved in any discussion on supportive housing, regardless of where it’s located.
He doesn’t want to say that Pitt Meadows doesn’t face the same issues connected with homelessness as Maple Ridge.
“We do not want a facility that warehouses and ingrains destructive behaviour.”
Becker, though, doesn’t see any commercial development on the north side of Lougheed Highway and west of Harris Road in the long term.
Coun. Bill Dingwall hadn’t heard about the proposal, but pointed out land in that area could also be needed for improvements to Lougheed Highway.
But access to social services for people without vehicles would be one concern, Dingwall added.