There has been a lot of discussion in Parksville on Vancouver Island regarding Orca Place a nearly $7 million housing project for 52 homeless or at risk of being homeless residents which is currently under construction. The facility will be staffed with two employees at the facility at any time, and have over twenty people on the payroll. Support workers “will be responsible for maintaining security and safety within the building, and to maintain a good neighbour relationship with the surrounding neighbourhood.”
Despite these assurances a $52 million dollar seniors residence planned to be across from The Orca housing complex has been cancelled, with the seniors’ home founder placing the reason directly on the planned homeless residence.
“It’s a huge disappointment — we were looking forward to it,” said Berwick founder Gordon Denford in an interview. “The last thing we wanted is where we are at today. But the risk is too great to our seniors, our future residents and our employees.”Denford stated that the placement of Orca Place “is totally incompatible with a large residence that is home to approximately 250 vulnerable seniors, along with approximately 150 full- and part-time employees and a daycare for 30 of their preschool children.”
Nearly 150 jobs, tax revenue and development cost charges of more than $2.5 million, to be split with the regional district will also be lost.
Denford also noted that the placement of the seniors residence across from The Orca also meant that they anticipated difficulty in leasing out the 188 units that would be available if the seniors’ housing went ahead.
Parksville Council has restricted the age of potential residence of Orca Place to 45 years of age and up and removed a planned cold weather shelter and soup kitchen. But for Berwick this was not enough, and the company was looking for development cost forgiveness and a break on property taxes, saying they had already spent one million dollars in predevelopment costs.
Mayor Ed Mayne noted that the seniors proposed development did not meet criteria to allow the city to forgive development charges or tax rates.
As the Times Colonist reported, Parksville councillor Adam Fras fingerpointed the problem on B.C. Housing.
“The message is that these are the risks that come with supportive housing, and the losses to communities that happen when you don’t consult with the community properly — you lose out on these homes and these jobs.It takes B.C. Housing really listening to how this impacts communities. They are constantly telling us [supportive housing] doesn’t affect home prices, doesn’t affect crime, doesn’t affect this and that, but here is a very real loss to a community that comes out of these supportive-housing units.”