The Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce is weighing in on the controversial BC Housing project at Skaha Lake Road.
In a letter to the Minister of Municipal Affairs dated Feb. 5, the chamber board of directors say it “fully supports Penticton city council’s call for a complete and independent audit of the existing Compass House, Burdock House and Fairhaven supportive housing projects to determine if sufficient actions have been taken to support those in need of housing and what the impact of the housing projects have been on the community.”
BC Housing has bought land on Skaha Lake Road and plans to build a 54-bed supportive housing building for those experiencing homelessness. They would like to start construction as soon as possible, they said at an information meeting. But they need a permit from the city to proceed.
The chamber letter goes on to say that the response to this epidemic has forced many of Penticton’s businesses to scale back or close their doors completely, with many jobs lost.
“We completely support the fact that there should be safe, secure housing available for all our citizens. But with an uncertain future, many of our member businesses have reached out to let us know that they believe some of the housing decisions made by BC Housing in the past few years may have had undue consequences to the viability of their business and the security of their employees.”
The chamber said in the letter that it understands fully that we need to ensure that the city’s most vulnerable are supported, while at the same time insist that it is vital that the community have meaningful input on these major housing decisions.
According to 100 Homes Penticton, since 2016 over 350 people have secured housing and support through providers in the city, yet there are still over 100 people unhoused and over 140 on the supportive housing registry. The chamber believes an audit would shed light on this phenomenon and create more transparency concerning the supports and services that are available locally in order to remain a safe and vibrant community.
The 100 Homes Penticton penned its own letter, saying they too support an audit to show all the work that is being done but to also show where action is needed to help Penticton’s most vulnerable.
The letter went on to say there are mental health and addictions supports but they are “underutilized” because of the barriers to access those programs.
In a recent city safety and security advisory committee meeting, it was revealed that Industrial Ave. has faced incessant and rampant theft from businesses. City councillor Katie Robinson tied the opening of Compass Court on Main St. to when the area saw an increase in crime.
In a presentation to council, Penticton RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter said many of their calls for service are to help those suffering in addiction and mental health.