Businesses frustrated with lack of consultation about second 'tiny homes' site in Kelowna

Businesses 'not impressed'

Madison Reeve

Business owners near the site of Kelowna's second supportive "tiny home" development are apprehensive.

BC Housing announced Thursday that 60 modular homes would be placed at 2740 Highway 97 North, on a lot between the highway and rail trail.

Neighbours were not informed of the decision until Nov. 28.

"I'm not super impressed that we weren't given any opportunity to provide feedback on other possible locations or anything at all," said Wayne Unger, owner of Kelowna Wallbeds.

"They just came in and told us... here's what's happening, and there's really nothing we can do about it."

Unger is concerned the new location will create more problems for him. He mentions that having his business near the rail trail has proven difficult.

"We already experience a lot of activity from homeless people causing damage to the property—setting fires and such. Given that it's a wet facility, I believe these issues will increase," he added.

Some other neighbours that Castanet spoke with noted that there have been frequent encampments along the rail trail nearby, and they were hopeful the new living units would help reduce those.

Colleen Cornock, social development manager with the City of Kelowna, says how the facility will be run will be at the discretion of BC Housing and its contractor.

"My understanding is that it is a harm reduction approach," she said. "Comments about operations related to that site revolve around who the operator will be and how BC Housing manages that location."

An unannounced non-profit organization will be contracted to operate the homes and provide support services, including meals, 24/7 staffing, access to skill training and support navigating the housing system.

Darcy Griesheimer, a neighbouring property manager, also expressed his desire to have had a discussion with the city before the site was chosen.

"Just having the city come in and say this is what we've decided, without consulting businesses around, feels a bit like 'do as we say, not as we do.'"

Cornock said the city primarily chooses locations like this based on availability.

"This is already a city-owned site, availability of utilities to the site, and ease of utilities to the site. That was the predominant reason for this choice and our Crowley location," she said.

Work on the site will begin in December, and the tiny homes are expected to be ready in early 2024.

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