B.C. Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing David Eby toured UNITI’s Chorus Apartments in South Surrey Tuesday (June 21) – and offered his personal support for the Harmony Apartments proposal in South Surrey, rejected by Surrey council last year.
“I’m really excited about what you’ve built here in this community and the advocacy you’re doing for this new building,” he told residents and would-be residents, along with UNITI CEO Doug Tennant, UNITI board chair Bea Hadikin and board member Nicole Russell.
Tennant pointed out the Chorus development, at 15306 24 Ave., opened in 2016, was the first purpose-built rental apartment building in three decades in Surrey.
It has since been described as a model development for offering a combination of affordable-rental units and independent-living units for those with disabilities.
The Harmony follow-up planned by UNITI – a partnering of the Semiahmoo House Society, Peninsula Estates Housing Society and the Semiahmoo Foundation – is a six-storey, 91-unit building on property owned by the organization in the 15100-block of 20 Avenue.
On July 27 of last year, the Safe Surrey Coalition majority on Surrey council (Mayor Doug McCallum, Couns. Allison Patton, Laurie Guerra, Doug Elford and Mandeep Nagra) rejected the project by a five to three vote.
But Eby said he supported this model for housing while visiting with residents of Chorus, and also others who’ve hoped to move into Harmony.
“I want to let you know I’m on your side, and at a provincial government level I’ll do whatever I can to support you in getting this built,” Eby said.
“…I know how important it is for you, but also it’s not just your building – it’s other buildings, too, across the province, that have this challenge.
“We’re also looking at ways that we can encourage municipal governments to make the right decision,” he said.
“They’re not easy decisions because sometimes neighbours come out and say ‘I don’t want this building’, but they need to have the vision for the kind of neighbourhood that you are talking about. Your work is helping educate not just the mayor and council, but everybody in Surrey.”
The project, in preparation for more than three years, would combine inclusive, affordable and close-to-market-rate units, and more than 200 people had expressed an interest in living there.
UNITI CEO Doug Tennant told Peace Arch News last month – after UNITI was named non-profit organization of the year at the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce’s Celebration of Resilience Business Excellence Awards – that the reasoning for council’s decision has never been made public, beyond some reference to neighbour’s concerns about the height of the building.
The project, aimed at providing housing for people with disabilities, as well as those who have been priced out of the market, was within current density zoning, he noted.
It was also strongly supported by city staff, and even more strongly supported by the community, including the Chamber and all neighbouring businesses, he added.