Public consultation on a 91-unit affordable and inclusive housing project proposed for South Surrey is taking a twist due to the ongoing pandemic.
Doug Tennant, chief executive officer of UNITI – a partnership of Semiahmoo House Society, Peninsula Estates Housing Society and The Semiahmoo Foundation – said restrictions on gatherings have led to “a whole new ballgame” when it comes to collecting public input.
“Because of COVID-19… we’re going to be doing an online public-information meeting, and we want to make sure it’s a genuine way to consult with people,” said Tennant.
Starting June 15, the public can weigh in, ask questions about and comment on the Harmony apartment project via a website that is being to created to explain it.
“Every couple of days after June 15, we’ll be answering the questions that have come to us,” he said.
Input – to be collected through to June 27 – will also be gathered through email, by phone and via a survey, Tennant added.
The site proposed for the project is 5.5 acres that is owned by Peninsula Estates Housing Society. Located in the 15100-block of 20 Avenue, it is currently home to 52 townhomes and an 18-unit apartment building.
Currently at the development-permit application stage, Tennant said the hope is to break ground on the six-storey Harmony next spring. He noted the site does not require rezoning.
Tennant described the need for more such affordable and inclusive housing in South Surrey as “desperate,” noting the organization’s first inclusive project – Chorus, which opened its 71 units four years ago at 2358 153 St. – has been full from the get-go.
“We realized (the need) when we completed Chorus: it was rented up immediately and vacancies are snapped up immediately,” Tennant said.
“The model works,” he added, describing a combination of inclusive, affordable and close-to-market-rate units that create a community which reflects a diversity of residents – from health-care workers and seniors to families and people with disabilities.
He hopes the upcoming consultation period will help quash “misinformation” about the project, including the belief by some that it is a for-profit development.
“We are a not-for-profit developer,” Tennant said. “We do not build for financial profit, we build for social profit of the community as well as the tenants that are going to live in the apartment.”
Other fears he wants to quell include that the project is a precursor to something bigger. Tennant said any future growth on the site would actually be smaller – townhouses and duplexes are a possibility – and, “would be 20 years away.”
He noted that while 17 of the 52 townhomes that currently exist on the proposed site are slated to be demolished to make way for the new building, the affected residents “will have first kick at the can” for a unit in Harmony, which is anticipated to be ready for occupancy by the end of 2022.
He expects the units to “fill up in a heartbeat, absolutely.”
The public-information website link is expected to be ready this week. For more information, email email@example.com