Burdock House 2.0

An artistic rendering of Burdock House that will serve as a template for a new 54-unit supportive housing project on Skaha Lake Road.

City officials say they – and the broader public – have been kept in the dark about BC Housing’s plans for a new project at the south end of Penticton that’s the subject of a poorly advertised information session Tuesday night.

BC Housing sent notices about the virtual hearing to residents in the immediate vicinity of 3240 Skaha Lake Rd., where the 54-unit supportive housing project would be located, but that’s where the invitation list stopped, apparently.

Now the mayor has written directly to B.C.’s housing minister requesting better public consultation due to the “numerous” inquiries about the project received by the City of Penticton and the lack of details being provided to the local government.

“Council is requesting a robust community engagement program for this project and would encourage BC Housing to hold multiple information and engagement sessions,” John Vassilaki wrote in a Jan. 13 letter to David Eby that was provided to The Herald.

“Further, those sessions should be open to the public and advertised accordingly so that all interested community members can fully understand the project and provide their feedback.”

While the 54-unit supportive housing project proposed by BC Housing doesn’t require a rezoning that would trigger a city-led public hearing, it does need a development permit that must be authorized by council, which “will be interested in the results of (Tuesday’s) public engagement as part of our decision making process,” the letter added.

Council met with BC Housing to discuss the project on Dec. 9, “and BC Housing agreed to provide more information on this project, as well as previous projects, statistical information related to homeless counts, needs assessments and definitions/descriptions of services provided by BC Housing,” noted Vassilaki.

“Our staff have followed up on numerous occasions, and although BC Housing has said they are working on the request, we still have not received any of this information. We believe this is the sort of information that will allow not only council, but our residents to provide proper feedback to BC Housing on their proposal.”

In the meantime, the city is encouraging people with questions about the project to contact BC Housing directly.

BC Housing said in a statement Monday it’s “committed to being a good neighbour.”

“We reached out to the community with letters to just under 800 neighbours and stakeholders within a 300-metre radius of the proposed site. We have also advertised about the info session on our Facebook page,” added the statement.

Tuesday’s session will be conducted online and is open to anyone who registers in advance at www.letstalkhousingbc.ca. The website also contains what little information has been made public about the project, which was announced via press release on Dec. 15.

The release noted construction would tentatively get underway this spring with completion in summer 2022, and follow the example set by Burdock House on Winnipeg Street, both in design and operation.

“The rest of the site will be kept available for future affordable housing projects for people in Penticton, including seniors, singles, families and/or people with a disability,” the release noted.

BC Housing purchased the 1.2-acre property in July 2020 for $2.1 million, matching its most current valuation by BC Assessment.

It’s only about 500 metres south of the spot on Green Avenue where BC Housing in 2018 initially wanted to build what would eventually become Burdock House. However, city council of the day denied the required rezoning due to the site’s proximity to schools.