Kelowna's mayor

Colin Basran

Changes may be made to the operation of a controversial addict housing complex planned for Rutland.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said Monday the municipality is still in talks with the provincial government about how the facility will be run.

“We’re going to have discussions with the minister (of housing, Selina Robinson) about potential changes to the proposed operating model,” Basran said at Monday’s regular council meeting.

A special council meeting will be held Wednesday in connection with the housing complex, Basran said.

Coun. Mohini Singh praised the decision by city officials to seek possible changes to the way the 49-suite complex, designed to house people with addictions and those struggling with mental illnesses and homelessness, will be managed.

“This is not a delay tactic but an honest and sincere effort to find compromise,” Singh said.

No other councillors at Monday’s meeting said anything on the subject. City council has already given the necessary zoning and regulatory approval to the project.

Nevertheless, the housing complex, at the corner of Rutland Road and McCurdy Road, has continued to arouse strong opposition from nearby residents.

Thousands of people are reported to have signed petitions against the project, fearing it will increase crime and drug use in the area.

There are also concerns about the project’s proximity to Rutland schools, and the belief Rutland has a disproportionate number of such facilities.

As with similar government-funded projects across the province, people chosen to live there will not necessarily have to undergo treatment or counselling programs.

The strategy is called “Housing First,” and is premised on the belief that it’s important to offer addicts, homeless people and those with mental-health issues a safe and stable place to live, in the hope that they will then freely choose to confront their individual issues.

A member of a Rutland group campaigning against the addict housing complex wrote on Facebook later Monday that she had been told by an unnamed city councillor that the city was trying to change the nature of the building.

Audra Boudreau, of Rutland for Safe Neighborhoods, said city officials were attempting to persuade BC Housing to redesign the project to serve low-income people, not those with drug addictions or mental illnesses.

“If the city is able to put together a written and enforceable commitment from BC Housing for this property, limiting its use to low-income family or seniors’ housing, it will constitute a ‘win’ for all involved,” Boudreau wrote.

“Our elected officials would have demonstrated that they are listening to, and value, Rutland residents,” she wrote.