Affordable housing site will enhance Millennium Park, help youth

Web Lead

To the Editor:

(Re: “Land beside Millennium Park not suitable for affordable housing complex”)

The Creston Valley Community Housing Society spent the past five years researching and developing the proposal that we recently submitted to BC Housing and Columbia Basin Trust for grant funding. Needs and demand assessments pointed to a shortage of affordable family housing. Most of the rental units available in Creston are one- or two-bedroom units and are not geared towards families.

Once we identified family housing as a priority, we looked for an appropriate site. We considered and rejected several sites during that time — generally because the property was either too far away from the town core, unavailable or too expensive.

People familiar with the former Crestbrook property believe that, like the nearby 24 units of low-cost seniors housing, the site just south of Millennium Park would be buildable. The site is fully serviced with all major utilities either on-site or readily available. As soon as core funding is confirmed, a geotechnical assessment will be undertaken to confirm the environmental considerations. If the site fails, the project won’t proceed at that site.

The next step in the process was to come up with a suitable site design. Members of our design team, including local architect Christine Ross, worked on Millennium Park years ago. It was important to the team and to the Town of Creston that the site plan enhance Millennium Park, not detract from it. We believe that the plan we’ve arrived at, with its generous green space and landscaping, will do just that. Noise from children playing next door will be no more disruptive than noise from other adjacent amenities such as the bike park, Prince Charles Secondary School, local truck traffic or the neighbouring railroad.

Mr. Reider expresses concern that children living in our complex will be stigmatized. Over the past five years, we have consulted extensively with Creston organizations that serve our children; none of them shared that concern. Bullying is a serious problem throughout our society. Children (and adults) are bullied for a variety of reasons. Perhaps if our proposed development was the stereotypical affordable housing project — dirty, dangerous and poorly managed — this might be the case. Of all the affordable housing complexes our group visited, none resembled this stereotype in any way.

On the contrary, research done by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation shows that children who move into social housing experience less stress, have better nutrition and are more successful in school than prior to moving into social housing. (CMHC Research Highlight, July 2010) According to the Canadian Medical Association, “For children in particular, the strong and frequent bombardment of ‘toxic stress’ from living in substandard housing with adults who are also stressed can set the stage for lifelong damage.” (May 2013 conference, as reported by CBC) We can’t protect our children from all bullying, but we can help make sure they grow up in safe, affordable, healthy housing.

The key is good planning and good management. The RCMP have participated in our planning process and are bringing their expertise on design and management of a safe complex. All the existing Creston subsidized housing complexes, none of which fit the stereotype, have offered their expertise. The tenant selection committee has developed selection criteria to ensure that potential problem tenants are screened out, and that the tenants understand their responsibilities to their neighbours, both internally and externally.

If core funding is approved and the site passes the geotechnical requirements, the Creston Valley Community Housing Society will be hosting additional public meetings. We invite you to come, meet the proponents of the project, learn about the process we’ve undertaken and see the plan. We would welcome you to work with us to help the children and families of the valley.

Heather More, Chair

Creston Valley Community Housing Society