Protest

Critics of an addict housing facility in Rutland, including this family shown at a protest in late June, have succeeded in getting BC Housing to change the controversial facility's operating style so future residents will not be able to use illegal drugs.

People chosen to live at a controversial Rutland housing complex will have to agree not to use illegal drugs.

The operating model of the 49-suite project has been changed by BC Housing in response to concerns relayed by Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran.

As well, additional security will be on site for the first six months, and a nurse will now be based at the facility.

“All residents selected to live there will have to make a commitment to ongoing recovery as part of their residency,” Basran said at a special council meeting. “They will have to commit to not using illegal drugs.”

Under the most common form of a so-called supportive housing project, tenants do not necessarily have to agree to undergo counselling or treatment programs to deal with issues like addictions and mental illnesses. Since residents can continue to abuse alcohol and do drugs, these complexes are sometimes known as “wet facilities.”

Essentially, with Wednesday’s announcement, BC Housing has agreed to convert the Rutland complex to a “dry facility,” where tenants could be evicted for using drugs.

More than 14,000 people had signed a petition against the Rutland project as it was previously conceived, fearing it would increase crime and drug use in a neighbourhood with several schools.

“I actually feel quite relieved by the changes BC Housing has made,” Coun. Luke Stack said. “The public has spoken really quite clearly to us that they did not want to see, in the common language, a wet facility at this location.”

“This is democracy at work,” said Coun. Mohini Singh.

Several councillors praised Basran for being able to convince NDP Housing Minister Selina Robinson to instruct BC Housing to change the operating model of the complex, now under construction at the corner of Rutland Road and McCurdy Road.

Coun. Brad Sieben said the fact Basran had a good relationship with Robinson was the reason “she actually took his call” in the last few days to discuss possible changes to the facility.

“I commend the mayor for the hard work you’ve done behind the scenes,” said Coun. Loyal Wooldridge.

Coun. Gail Given drew jeers from some in the gallery when she said much of the community opposition to the Rutland project was based on fear.

“Drug use is happening in apartment blocks all over your neighbourhood,” Given lectured the audience.

Council approved the project as it was previously conceived on June 17. Under the Community Charter, Wednesday was the last day council could have signalled its intention to rescind that approval.

The possibility of that approval being rescinded is likely what prompted Robinson to agree to the city’s request that the housing project’s operating model be changed to a dry facility.

Coun. Charlie Hodge proposed a motion to reconsider the June 17 approval, prompting applause from the gallery, but his idea was voted down by the rest of council.