Still no site for modular housing in Maple Ridge

Mayor and tent city leaders critical of B.C. Housing

A temporary modular housing suite is visited by the public while on display in Robson Square in downtown Vancouver. (Canadian Press/Ben Nelms)

Neither the City of Maple Ridge nor Anita Place Tent City residents know if B.C. Housing has a site in mind for modular housing.

Both Ivan Drury, Alliance Against Displacement, which represents the camp, and Mayor Nicole Read expressed frustration that nothing seems to be happening.

The silence is “becoming suspicious,” Drury said.

“There seemed to be some urgency around it in December, but two months later there is nothing,” he added.

“We worry the province is giving up on the idea.”

He fears the province will consider a homeless camp like Anita Place – equipped with a warming tent and washroom facilities on city property off the Haney Bypass – as a new part of the B.C. Housing service model.

When Maple Ridge was seeking an injunction to have the camp removed, B.C. Housing indicated in court documents that modular housing could be set up in four to six weeks, and the goal was to have it set up by April 1.

To meet that timeline, the government would need to have a site now, Drury said.

The injunction was later withdrawn.

Drury said the plan for Maple Ridge was to have bunkhouse-style units that are used in remote work camps.

“They’re not getting the showroom model of modular housing.”

Drury is also critical of the NDP government for adding no new resources for homeless in Maple Ridge other than those announced by the previous Liberal government.

“It’s a years-old plan at this point,” said Drury.

His group had asked for 200 units, where the government is planning just 55.

Drury said that would still leave people on the streets.

“We want to actually end the crisis, and not just the visibility.”

Read is also frustrated with the lack of action on modular housing.

“We still have not been advised of any site,” she said. “It’s very concerning.”

In November, Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith reported the province was looking at 20 sites for modular housing.

Reached this week, D’Eith’s office referred the issue to B.C. Housing.

Read said the city fire department is still fighting with camp residents to ensure compliance with safety rules there, and there are unsanitary conditions, including a rat infestation.

“These people have not been in good circumstances for the better part of a year,” said Read.

The Anita Place camp formed in its present location at the beginning of May 2017.

Read said B.C. Housing said it would host a second public information session early in February, addressing the proposed Burnett Avenue homeless shelter, modular housing and other issues. There has still been no date announced.

City staff have requested a meeting with B.C. Housing for an update, said Read.

B.C. Housing said it is still searching for a site.

“We are working to secure a site for temporary supportive modular housing and will release those details as soon as they become available,” said Andrea Coutts, senior communications specialist with B.C. Housing.

Coutts added that a second public information session is in the works.

”We received a significant amount of feedback after our first public information session. B.C. Housing is in the process of going through all the feedback while planning for the next information session,” she said.

“We will be sharing the date, location and other information regarding a second session once those details have been finalized.”

B.C. Housing has said the site must be close to transit and community services. It will be staffed 24/7, and occupants will be able to live there for up to two years while more permanent housing is built.

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