SURREY - The provincial Liberal government announced Tuesday its commitment of $15 million for a planned transitional housing and shelter project near Green Timbers Urban Forest.
The City of Surrey will supply the land, at 14150 Green Timbers Way, across the street from the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre.
The new development will consist of 50 transitional beds and 50 shelter beds and will operate as a minimal barrier shelter.
"This funding announcement is welcome news for Surrey as the shelter will provide another safe, warm and dry place to stay for our most vulnerable citizens," said Mayor Linda Hepner in a release. "Green Timbers will offer not just a calm sanctuary, but also access to support services that will help them transition into more permanent, long-term housing."
Construction is expected to begin next February, with completion set for April 2020.
— Office of the Mayor (@SurreyMayor) April 4, 2017
City council rezoned the property for this development last May.
It was met with tree loss concerns from some residents, including Don Schuetze, president of Green Timbers Heritage Society.
"It's difficult to argue against care facilities, transitional housing and the other uses that are being mentioned here," he told council at the time. "They're necessary causes, and if it was any other space I'd be embarrassed to even question it. But Green Timbers is special, it's unique, and it is threatened."
Once "dug over," said Schuetze, the forest can never be brought back. "It can't be picked up and moved to another part of Surrey. It can't be re-conceptualized and developed somewhere else. This is it.
"This could become Surrey's Stanley Park," he added.
Elizabeth Model, CEO of the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association, representing about 1,500 businesses, told council at the time that her organization supports the zoning change, arguing the proposed uses are ideally situated and will help vulnerable people.
"It does not compromise the business community and therefore the economic growth projections and long-term tax revenue for this city," she said.
The province says the Green Timbers shelter "will provide more options to vulnerable people in Surrey, where the number of encampments in the Whalley area has grown over the past months" and that shelter services in Surrey have "previously proven to be a successful method of transitioning guests into long-term housing options."
Surrey's Boulevard Shelter that opened in the old Dell Beer & Wine store in December 2015 has transitioned more than 135 people into long-term housing since February 2016.
Peter Fassbender, MLA for Surrey-Fleetwood, said the development will "make a significant impact in the community."
MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale Stephanie Cadieux said it will serve as "another refuge for those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and a beacon of hope for the Surrey community."
— BC Housing (@BC_Housing) April 4, 2017
Since 2001, the province has invested or committed to a total of $6.3 billion to provide affordable housing supply and access for low income individuals, seniors, and families.
Last year, the province contributed more than $47.8 million to provide subsidized housing and rent supplements for more than 8,000 households in Surrey. This includes more than $13.2 million for emergency shelters and housing for those who are homeless.
-With files from Tom Zytaruk