With 130 people homeless in Penticton, the creation of a new affordable housing complex on Main Street is a welcome addition.
By a vote of 5-2, Penticton City Council approved Tuesday a zoning amendment bylaw for the former Super 8 Motel property at 1706 Main Street.
BC Housing recently purchased the 54-unit motel which included an indoor swimming pool. The rooms will be converted into housing for those in need of mental health services, those suffering addictions and persons in a housing crisis.
The swimming pool area will be renovated and replaced with 16 emergency shelter beds with space for an additional 20 cold-weather emergency beds.
The facility will be run by the Penticton and District Society for Community Living in partnership with Interior Health. The Salvation Army will offer assistance.
The site will have multiple security features including surveillance video and fencing.
"This is much needed," Coun. Helena Konanz said. "All you need to do is walk down Main Street and walk throughout our downtown. We need to offer support for those people, especially those who are in need of homes."
Coun. Judy Sentes said she's pleased to see several social agencies working together on the project and addressing the housing crunch in Penticton.
"We all recognize the need and we're all searching for a resolution and this is certainly a reasonable one," Sentes said.
Couns. Max Picton and Campbell Watt voted in opposition. Picton said he respects the need but considers the location to be inappropriate.
"Main Street is our main corridor that connects our two lakes, that every tourist drives down. We don't need a gated-off, transitional type housing which will be a third one," Picton said, referencing two other hotels which have been converted to low-rental housing. "This is not a vibrant Main Street for our community. I wish the location could just be somewhere else."
In response, Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said, "It's an unfair, unrealistic stereotype to be painting people all with the same brush."
Watt's opposition was because BC Housing purchased the property without consulting council in advance.
"I think there needed to be more consultation, maybe there was a more appropriate place for it rather than go with the first available place for purchase," Watt said.
The facility is close to Penticton Regional Hospital, shopping, a bus route, thrift stores, fast food and several other social agencies and medical services.
The majority of speakers at the public hearing were in favour of the project.