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Kelowna supportive housing: one step forward, two steps back

As construction begins on a 40-unit supportive housing development in Kelowna, two other partner sites committed to last year remain on hold.

The Willowbridge short-term housing development was one of three sites announced in a memo of understanding between the provincial government and the City of Kelowna in March 2008. The agreement was to create up to 140 supportive housing units on three sites by 2010.

But a 39-unit site operated by New Opportunities for Women Canada Society has been stalled by a legal challenge from local merchants over the loss of public parking.

And a third housing development to be managed by the John Howard Society has been delayed because of funding commitments, said a city official.

“The province has put a hold on the funding to go ahead with the construction,” said Theresa Eichler, the city’s community planning manager.

“We have no idea when we will know for sure,” she said. “They haven’t really explained it clearly to anyone at this stage of the game.”

Under the memo of understanding, the province committed to pay design costs and all capital and operating funding for the three sites, while the city was to provide the land for redevelopment.

Construction was supposed to begin in early 2009 with completion scheduled for next year. “This agreement ensures construction can begin as soon as possible,” said Housing Minister Rich Coleman in a press release announcing the memo of understanding.

But while the money for the other two sites has been secured, the funding for the John Howard project will not be considered until the next round of provincial capital infrastructure spending, said BC Housing spokesperson Rhonda Nguyen in a written response to The Tyee.

No dates for this round have been identified, she said.

The city remains hopeful that all three sites will be constructed and the province will follow through on its agreement, said Eichler.

"They still want to keep to that commitment as far as I know,” she said.

Eight permanent housing sites in Vancouver are also awaiting provincial funding and are expected to be considered during the next infrastucture spending round.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

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