With another Penticton motel set to be converted into low-income housing, organizers are trying something a little different from the Fairhaven project at the former Bel-Air motel.
Speaking to the Western News last week, South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society executive director Linda Sankey said reworking the former Super 8 motel on Main Street into social housing will include a little more than just housing.
“It’ll be a mix. The thing with Fairhaven is every time we do one of these things in our community, we learn something from it as well,” Sankey said. “The next one will be a little different, just because of the opportunity that we’ve had to learn from our first try.”
Sankey wasn’t able to speak further to the project at the time, but city planner Blake Laven said beyond affordable housing, the new project at the 54-unit Super 8 motel will include a shelter and a space for Interior Health.
“People with addictions or mental health issues will have — it’ll be like the residents of the Highland, but there’ll be supports there, and 24-hour security,” Laven said. “It’s going to be a much more regulated environment.”
B.C. Housing said it wasn’t able to provide much more information on the project, but a new report before city council is calling for the rezoning of the former motel to allow the renovations and reconfigurations of the structure to meet the new needs.
In that report, Laven notes a recently published study indicated a need for more than 200 units of non-market housing, adding that the city’s shelters are operating over capacity.
“The need for this type of facility is evident, however, the question with this type of facility is always where an appropriate location would be,” Laven’s report says. “The location selected by B.C. Housing for this project is, in staff’s consideration, a good location.”
In an interview, Laven said the project is part of the 100 Homes Penticton initiative, part of the 10,000 Homes Canada initiative, a housing first strategy to provide stable living space for homeless as a first step to boost their living condition.
“It’s really been seen to work in a lot of other communities that have employed that type of housing,” Laven said.
That’s been tested, to some degree, in Penticton as well, with Fairhaven on Skaha Lake Road, where the province and city partnered to rework the motel into affordable housing units.
Sankey said Fairhaven has had some success stories already, pointing in particular to one senior who had been previously camping out in an area where a bear frequented the campsite.
“She’s had lots of support, all of the things that they needed to get their longer-term housing arranged, was put in place, and received medical care that they needed,” Sankey said. “(She) is having no difficulty with their regular, ongoing tenancy, now, and it was just a few months there at Fairhaven that made that difference.”
Laven’s report to council also notes some “growing pains” from both Fairhaven and a 2010 project at the Skaha Sunrise motel, but neither Laven nor Sankey elaborated on the lessons learned or the growing pains.
However, in his report, Laven notes that the bigger property at the Super 8 lends itself to adding services on site with Interior Health, which would take some “pressure” off Fairhaven and Skaha Sunrise.
“Both properties are currently operating well, with waitlists for entry. The subject property is more ambitious than the previous two,” Laven wrote.
“The hope is that with the new project coming online, pressure at Fairhaven and Skaha Sunrise will be reduced, as the ‘high resource’ residents are better placed where they will succeed.”
If council goes along with the staff recommendation and gives the project first reading on Tuesday, the development will go to a public hearing on Aug. 15.