July 23rd, 2024

New supportive housing project proposed for city

By Justin Sibbet - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on July 3, 2024.

Herald photo by Justin Sibbet City council passed the first reading of a rezoning bylaw involving this residence at 925 15 Street South last week, scheduling a public hearing for July 23.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDjsibbet@lethbridgeherald.com

Amidst concerns over housing shortages, one proposed bylaw could enable an additional 24 people to live in a residence on the city’s southside.

The first reading has made it through city council for a land rezoning bylaw that would enable a property operated by the Streets Alive Family Support Association to change from eight apartment units to a 32 resident supportive living home. The residence is located at 925 15 Street South.

In October 2023, council approved $560,000 for the project, leaving the rezoning process as the next step in making this project a reality.

Bylaw 6443 will, if enacted, allow more than just an increase in resident numbers to the dwelling, according to a City planning report.

“Streets Alive Family Support Association has utilized this building for the past four years to provide housing without social supports or services for their clients. Bylaw 6443 would allow the Streets Alive Family Support Association to provide housing with supports and services for their clients.”

Ken Kissick, co-founder of Streets Alive Mission, says this location was chosen four years ago by his organization for a variety of reasons.

“Obviously one (reason) is the ability for us to repurpose the facility into something that we can use… and that it can be done at a reasonable cost,” said Kissick. “Another key factor is availability.”

He says the location is also well situated near public transit and is a walkable distance for groceries and other shopping.

“It’s also high-density apartment style housing,” said Kissick.

The transition would require the unit to change from its current eight separate units into one larger unit with shared facilities, as to accommodate the increased number of residents.

“This use may include common kitchen and dining facilities, showers and bathrooms, training rooms, relaxation areas and laundry facilities as well as offices and accommodation for staff.”

Furthermore, the report indicates this change would benefit more than just the 32 potential people living in the building.

“Allowing 32 residents would allow the applicant to meet their operational as well as community needs. As identified in the Municipal Housing Strategy (MHS), the community has an acute shortage of supportive housing units which this rezoning application would help to address.”

However, not everyone is happy with the idea of this rezoning, especially those living nearby, according to the report.

“At the time of this submission, three inquiries have been received and all expressed concerns with this proposal. Their concerns related to overall safety and security of children in the area, potential negative impact on property values, and the applicant’s development history in the city.”

Kissick says public safety is in mind while planning and executing a project such as this.

“We are strong advocates for ensuring that we have a safe community.”

He says some of the plans in place include having a presence at the residence at all times.

“The new facility will have 24-hour staff,” said Kissick. “So that will create an element of safety for both the individuals (living at the residence) and the community.”

In addition to safety, some residents may be worried about parking when hearing 24 new residents could be moving in next door. Kissick, however, says this has never been an issue in his 25 plus years of working with programs such as this.

“We’ve put probably close to 800 people through the programs. Less than five per cent of those people actually have been able to retain their drivers license and if you happen to have your license, but you’re coming off addiction, chances are you don’t have a vehicle because you can’t afford one.”

Kissick says if everything goes according to plan, Streets Alive hopes to have people moved in by spring 2025.

As part of the process in passing this bylaw, there is a public hearing scheduled for July 23 at 3 p.m.

The current residents living in the building are already in Streets Alive programs, so Kissick says they will remain there until they are able to move along. Nobody will be forcibly removed from the residence as a result of this rezoning.

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