Penticton city council narrowly approved a building permit application from BC Housing for a locally-operated recovery housing complex, after previously denying it and citing trust issues with the provincial authority.
BC Housing purchased 3240 Skaha Lake Road in 2020, and made plans for a 54-unit building with round-the-clock staffing focused on low-income individuals in recovery from addiction. ASK Wellness and Ooknakane Friendship Centre have been tapped to run the location.
In July, city council turned down a request for building permits, asking for a legal agreement between the city and BC Housing that would ensure the site would be operated the way it was presented.
At Tuesday's meeting, council was presented with a letter of agreement from BC Housing which included promises to conduct a review of the project one year later including public consultation, ensure all residents are committed to a life of recovery, and to notify the city of any proposed changes to the operation model.
Some on council, including Mayor John Vassilaki, were concerned about the language in the letter, specifically what they thought was a vague description of what notification of operation changes would look like.
They cited ongoing litigation over operations at BC Housing's Victory Church emergency shelter, and an unwillingness to head back to court on more issues.
"We have to have an air-tight agreement between the City of Penticton and BC Housing before I would agree to sign off," Vassilaki said.
But the majority of council ultimately agreed now is the time to move forward with the development, which will be named "Nxastwilxtn," meaning "a place to come for healing and wellness" in the Syilx language.
"This is the missing link that we haven't had before between homelessness and a new path. And I'm really encouraged that it's recovery-based. That's what we've been asking for all the way along. That's what we've been missing. And now we have it and I think it's incumbent upon us to give it a chance," Coun. Katie Robinson said.
The motion passed 4-3, with Mayor Vassilaki and Couns. James Miller and Campbell Watt in opposition.
The motion directs staff to issue the building permits once the city and BC Housing sign the agreement.
City council is still awaiting the results of a requested third-party review of other BC Housing facilities in the city including Compass Court, Burdock House and Fairhaven. That review is expected in the new year.