Petition in support of affordable housing project presented to Prince Rupert council

Prince Rupert city council

A housing advocate in Prince Rupert recently presented a petition to Prince Rupert city council in support of a proposed housing project on 11th Ave. that has faced some pushback from local residents.

Paul Lagace started a petition in support of the project -- which is being developed by the city, BC Housing and the Lax Kw'alaams Housing Society - after noticing a previous petition against it.

That petition asked the city to pick a different location for the building and expressed concerns about added density in a residential neighbourhood, as well as the potential impact of the building on traffic, wildlife and property values. 

But Lagace, who works as a legal advocate at the Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre, argued at council's committee of the whole meeting on Monday that the project won't have the negative impacts its critics are predicting.

He says that Prince Rupert desperately needs more affordable housing.

"As it stands now, a lot of stigma might be attached to a 70-unit BC Housing apartment site, but not in our neighborhood. We will welcome these folks with open arms," he said.

"The stigma might serve to draw a line in the sand between various socioeconomic groups -- but again, we firmly believe that housing should not be a privilege, but a basic human right."

As of today, 563 people have signed Lagace's petition. In contrast, just 91 people signed the petition against the housing development, which is now closed. 

Lagace also brought along a community member who supports the project. Tina Steppler said she's been living in a hotel since March 31st and is currently in a tenancy dispute with her previous landlord

"In my 22 years of being on welfare, this is the worst affordable housing crisis in B.C. and Canada that I have seen and experienced," she said.

Steppler said she's seen how the housing crisis has grown in the city due to the loss of previous units from water, fire or tenant damage.

"Developing the 11th Ave. apartment building replaces much of the housing losses faced by the citizens of our community. Why are the homes we've lost that had been here for us 10 years ago not being rebuilt for us?"

Mayor Lee Brain said he was thankful that Lagace and Steppler were able to present to council, and he invited them to speak at the public hearing for the project.

"Legally speaking for council processes, we have to keep an open mind on any project until such time that there's a public hearing, we are hearing you loud and clear. We know this is a massive challenge for our community and, in fact, every community across this country right now."

Brain also said that almost 300 upcoming housing units are in the queue right now in Prince Rupert.