Controversial homeless housing proposal: Vancouver council flooded with feedback on Kits plan

Ahead of a public hearing on a proposed social housing project in Kitsilano, Vancouver city council has received 997 pieces of correspondence – with more than two-thirds opposed.

By contrast, the other two rezoning items on Tuesday night's agenda received a combined total of 10.

The 13-storey building is being proposed for an undeveloped lot on Arbutus Street between 7th and 8th avenues, and would contain 129 units of modular housing for single people to live in.

"This project proposes to deliver critical affordable homes for adults who are experiencing homelessness, at risk of homelessness or displacement from low-income housing, as well as for residents who may be working and earning very-low incomes," reads a city staff report describing the proposal.

"Approximately half of the units would be operated as supportive housing with on-site and embedded support services for residents and the other half will be deeply affordable social housing for residents who are ready and able to live more independently."

The plan has sparked concern among some residents, including a group called "The Kitsilano Coalition" that recently held a rally opposing the project.

"Your help is needed to oppose this rezoning now!" the group's website reads, encouraging people to submit online feedback and sign up to speak to council.

The group has said they are not opposed to the development of affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness, but that both the model being proposed and the location are not appropriate.

The submissions to the city range from short comments to multi-page letters. There is an asterisk beside the number of items received noting that "multiple/ duplicate entries (were) received" from those supporting the project and those opposed to it.

The 670 submissions in opposition echo the themes city staff said they identified when gathering feedback. Proximity to a school and a playground, a perceived lack of consultation, concerns that the project does not offer spaces for families, the prospects that the supportive units will go to tenants will use drugs or have mental health concerns, and the scale of the building.

The project is repeatedly described as "doomed to failure," a "tragedy in the making" and a "recipe for disaster."

The 318 submissions in support mostly argue that this type of housing is needed in all areas of the city, particularly in light of the overlapping crises of housing affordability and toxic drug deaths.

Vancouver-Fairview MLA George Heyman, whose riding straddles the boundaries of the proposed site sent a letter endorsing the plan, calling it a "much-needed project."

An additional nine submissions were classified as "other."

David Eby, the minister responsible for housing, is the MLA for the adjacent riding of Vancouver-Point Grey. He has spoken in favour of the project.

In an interview with CTV News earlier this month he responded to some of the concerns of the most vocal opponents.

“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 more than 2,000 unhoused people in Vancouver as of the last official count, Eby says increasing the affordable housing supply quickly is critical.

The hearing is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday and by Monday afternoon a city spokesperson confirmed that 171 people had registered to speak. The number of speakers suggests coming to a decision will require multiple meetings.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Tahmina Aziz