It’s been roughly six months since 160 units of temporary modular housing for Surrey’s homeless opened in Whalley, and new Surrey Councillor Brenda Locke is worried the leases may expire before the permanent replacements are built.
Locke told the Now-Leader she has asked city staff to see if the leases can be extended.
The suites that opened on June 19 are spread over three properties in Whalley, at 10662 King George Blvd., 13550 105th Ave. and 13425 107A Ave.
BC Housing has committed to building 250 units of permanent supportive housing to replace the 160 suites.
The problem? No sites have yet been identified.
“All three of those projects had a two-year shelf life,” said Locke of the 160 temporary suites. “I’ve asked staff to see if we can extend them, even just a little bit. We need to do something. But we don’t know if that’s possible.”
Locke, who has been chosen to chair the city’s Social Advisory Committee, said she hasn’t yet been told when the three leases are set to expire.
Site selection for the permanent sites is being led by the city, and Locke said “we’re moving as quickly as we can.”
“I did talk to staff about that and I know they’re working really hard on the four sites we have,” she added. “Those will be out in front of the public in the new year, as soon as we can.”
Locke said the permanent suites will be modulars “so they can be built quickly… so they can likely go up fast” once approved.
Asked where the four sites may be proposed, Locke said she didn’t yet have specifics. But she did say each location was expected to have about 40 units of housing. The community will, of course, have input into the locations., she noted.
Locke isn’t the first person to express worry about the possibility of the leases on the temporary modular housing expiring before the permanent sites are completed.
Keir Macdonald is executive director of Looking Housing and Health Society, which runs the modular projects. In October, he said it’s “unfortunate” there’s been a delay in identifying where the next phase of the project will be built after BC Housing withdrew its proposal to build a 60-unit, four-storey supportive housing development in the business core of downtown Cloverdale.
The majority of the opposition centred on it being an inappropriate place for such a facility. And in the middle of an election campaign, some mayoral candidates voiced their opposition, also.
“It’s a concern,” Macdonald said, at the time, of that delay. “One of our sites has 12 months to run on its lease…. We know how long projects take to get built. The clock is ticking.”
Macdonald said while the 160 modular units are “a fantastic start,” it’s a far cry from what’s needed.
“We’re still turning people away everyday from the shelter,” he noted.
The 2017 Metro Vancouver homeless count identified 602 homeless people in Surrey, up from 403 in 2014.