Rally planned for Dec. 10 against homeless camp has been cancelled. (THE NEWS/files)

No plans for any housing in Maple Ridge, say tent city supporters

Second location for modular housing in Pitt Meadows pitched by councillor.

The province has no intention of building modular homes in Maple Ridge and instead is focusing on a construction-camp type facility, which may not even be built until next spring, says Ivan Drury, with the Alliance Against Displacement.

Meanwhile, a second location for modular housing in Pitt Meadows has been suggested by a city councillor.

“They’re just not planning to build any housing,” Drury said about the City of Maple Ridge on Thursday at Anita Place Tent City, located off the Haney Bypass.

Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith said late last month that B.C. Housing was about to hold a meeting to discuss possible locations in Maple Ridge for modular housing.

Drury, though, contends otherwise and says that affidavits filed in court prove that.

“They’re just not planning on building any housing,” he added.

“I think the NPD is running a smoke show.”

He said what the province is calling modular homes in Maple Ridge will just be a temporary shelter using work camp trailers, instead of the more attractive, permanent type of housing going up in Vancouver.

He said the Alliance persuaded the City of Maple Ridge in November to back off from its court injunction to clear the camp. But now he says there’s no immediate plans to build any housing or shelter.

“Basically, we’re worried that the province’s approach is to, along with Maple Ridge and Vancouver and other places, is to make tent cities a permanent feature of the homeless management continuum.”

Pitt Meadows Coun. Bruce Bell suggested this week that property on the northeast corner of Harris and Lougheed Highway in that city be considered for a supportive housing complex, along with high-density, affordable housing.

That could take place on Agricultural Land Reserve land, that’s adjacent to the north Lougheed commercial area. However, plans for the latter remain on indefinite hold.

Bell said part of the whole area on the north side of Lougheed Highay could be affordable residential development.

“My preference would be to build up, not a sprawl, build up, multi-storey, affordable housing.”

The buildings could be near Lougheed Highway so it could be close to the B-Line bus on the Lougheed, planned for 2019.

“Not to mention the spectacular views at the back.”

Council hasn’t talked about that, but Bell plans on bringing it forward.

Affordable housing could built in partnership with the government or private developers, he said.

The biggest problem would be rezoning, he added.

“It’s on a transit route. It’s just perfect.”

Building high density also would minimize the footprint on the land, he added.

“My point is, there’s land there. It’s on rapid transit. It’s had some discussions about how it come out of the Agricultural Land Reserve.”

He said part of the ALR property could contain an agricultural trade show conference centre.

Last week. West Coast Auto Group owner Ron Jones offered 11 acres of land on Lougheed Highway at Harris Road in Pitt Meadows as one possible location for a homeless shelter.

B.C. Housing hasn’t yet said if that Pitt Meadows location is feasible.

In November, Mapel Ridge council made an agreement in late November with lawyers for the tent city to suspend an injunction to clear the camp. In return, B.C. Housing was to ensure camp residents have fireproof materials, other fire safety issues will be addressed, and provide washrooms.

Drury asked how many of the 2,000 modular housing that the province says it’s building across B.C. are work-camp type facilities?

“They’re not not talking about permanent housing in Maple Ridge,” he said.

“The change from the B.C. Liberal policy to the B.C. NDP policy is a change from a warehouse shelter, to a cell-type shelter, a small prison cell.”

And the earliest a shelter can be built here will be March, he added.

“As soon as the winter’s over, the pressure’s off the province to take people indoors.”

There’s also a change underway that no longer sees tent cities as situations, but part of long-term housing strategy, he added.

B.C. Housing has yet to announce any consultation or any modular housing project for Maple Ridge.

Maple Ridge Coun. Craig Speirs says everyone has their own opinion on how to solve homelessness.

“But we have to do things that are practical and will bring people off the street.”

Shelters where barriers are too high, means people will just stay on the street, he added.

“Nobody wants crime. Nobody wants prostitution.”

He said when the temporary homeless shelter at 22239 Lougheed Hwy. in the old mattress store was operating, drug offences and crime dropped.

“It had a positive effect in the neighbourhood.”

He even favours re-opening the temporary homeless shelter, until a permanent supportive housing complex is built.

That shelter closed in March after being open 18 months to allow for the clearing of the previous homeless camp on Cliff Avenue.

“It gave people a place to go during the day,” said Speirs. “It did get people off the street.”

People can’t be forced into treatment, he added.

“People want to do what they want to do. That’s why prohibition didn’t work.”

Meanwhile, a rally that had been planned against the Anita Place Tent City for this weekend has been cancelled.

Ahmed Yousef cancelled the event because of timing issues. He had called the city’s decision to back away from its court injunction to clear the tent city a “slap in the face” to residents.

In October, Yousef led a delegation that spoke to Maple Ridge council about the effects of the tent city that opened in the downtown this spring.

He also wants public consulation to take place and wants a solution that is accepted by the majority, before any shelter or supportive housing complex is opened in Maple Ridge.

But Yousef said he’d favour a low-barrier shelter that has a curfew and a no-drug use on premises policy.

“By simply putting them in a shelter here in Maple Ridge … you’re not helping Maple Ridge,” said Yousef, who is considering running for Maple Ridge council in the October 2018 civic election.

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Rally against tent city is cancelled. (THE NEWS/files)

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