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Kitsilano residents rally against homeless housing proposal

A group of residents of Vancouver’s west side held a rally on Wednesday, over a long-simmering debate on whether to construct a new social housing building in the neighbourhood.

The rally, attended by several dozen people, began with a girl singing a rendition of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi. Paving paradise to put up a parking lot – a theme attendees wanted Vancouver City Hall to hear.

“We should move towards better alternatives, by insisting councillors vote 'no' to the rezoning,” said Karen Finnan, a 30-year neighbourhood resident and volunteer with Kitsilano Coalition, a collective of people opposed to the proposed social housing project.

BC Housing is proposing a 13-storey tower on Arbutus Street just north of Broadway. It would include 129 modular studio apartments for low-income residents and people experiencing homelessness.

Rally organizers say they welcome social housing in the neighbourhood but would rather see it go to families and seniors.

“The terminus for the (Broadway) subway will be right across the street, and it would be well-suited for seniors and the disabled who have mobility difficulties,” Finnan said.

The tower would be built on an empty lot directly across from St. Augustine Elementary, where 450 kids go to school. Some feel the tower would be too close for comfort.

“We’d like to see something smaller in scale here,” said Finnan. “The larger the scale the more likely you are to have difficulties with individuals facing substance abuse, mental health issues, or transitioning from homelessness.”

Housing minister David Eby, in an interview with CTV News last week, addressed some of the group's concerns.

“I want to assure people that if issues did come up, I’d be quick to respond to them, because we need housing like this across the city,” he said.

“And the people who’d be living there will fit into the neighbourhood.”

With approximately 1,000 to 1500 unhoused people in Vancouver, Eby says increasing affordable housing supply quickly is critical. While he understands peoples’ concern, he says it’s misplaced.

Residents will have their say during a public hearing at city hall next Tuesday.

“If we vote no to the rezoning, we can start working towards a project model for this site that will be a success for the inhabitants of the project and for the surrounding community,” said Finnan. Top Stories

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