On Monday, city council showed their support for a proposed 14-unit social housing project on Zelkwas Avenue, despite a 63-signature petition and letters from area residents opposing the project.
The Phoenix Transition Society is looking to expand their Harmony House operations with a new building on three vacant lots on Zelkwas Avenue owned by the Trinity United Church. Harmony House offers housing and support for pregnant women and new mothers struggling with mental health and addictions.
Area resident Keith Annis summed up the concerns echoed by several dozen area residents in his letter to city council.
"I feel that this building will not fit in our neighbourhood as there are only single family bungalows in the blocks closest to this proposed building," he wrote. "I also feel that although I am all for helping people in need, it will bring undesirables to the neighbourhood. Angry husbands look for their wives, drug pushers looking for their customers and upset boyfriends looking for their pregnant girlfriends. I see nothing but issues coming out of this."
City council voted unanimously in favour of the third reading of a rezoning bylaw to that would allow the development to proceed to the next steps. Final reading of the bylaw is dependent on the three lots being consolidated.
"There was opposition to this, but I (also) think there is a tremendous amount of support for this in our community," Coun. Cori Ramsay said. "I think it's an incredibly important type of housing."
Coun. Murry Krause said the Phoenix Transition Society runs three successful housing programs in the city already. The society has helped many women in Prince George change their own lives, and the lives of their children, for the better, he said.
"I, too, believe that this is something that is needed," Krause said. "For those who wrote, worried about losing their property value, history shows – and research shows – that isn't the case."
Coun. Frank Everitt said, after reading the letters to city council on the matter, that much of the opposition was based on misinformation - including a rumour the building would be three stories tall.
"There was a rumour out there that it was going to be a larger building than it is," Everitt said.
M'akola Development Services is acting as the agent for the society. Planner Hillary Morgan said the goal is to make sure the program fits in with the community.
"We really want to make sure the building doesn't look institutional – that it looks like a house," Morgan said on Tuesday. "We want to maintain the dialog with the neighbour."
The proposed building is a two-storey structure, will have landscaped grounds around it and will incorporate several features to give it a homey, welcoming look, she said.
Morgan said she hopes have the lots consolidated so city council can approve final reading in March. However, there are still building permits and other steps to take – including talks with BC Housing, which is funding the project – before construction can begin.
The Harmony House program offers 24-hour staffing, including registered nurses, early childhood education workers and support workers, the society's website says. The goal of the program is to help women transition to independence and providing safe and caring homes for their children and themselves.
Coun. Kyle Sampson said, despite concerns from area residents, the proposal is a good fit for the area.
"This is the perfect neighbourhood for this," he said. "It's near transit, it's near retail, it's in a community."