Land originally earmarked for a homeless shelter on Cliffe Avenue could be sold and the money put towards building transitional housing for vulnerable women on another site, Courtenay councillors heard on Monday.

Speaking on behalf of Comox Valley Transition Society, Heather Ney said they envisioned a 30 to 40-unit building including a mix of studio and one, two, three and four-bedroomed apartments to allow children as well as their mothers to stay. Such a “second stage” residential facility for women who have been victims of domestic violence, or who feel threatened, could provide safe, affordable, short-term housing in independent units after the “first stage” – the emergency women’s shelter.

Ney reported that last summer, the Transition Society decided to actively pursue the development of apartments, and wanted to create a partnership, including with B.C. Housing, to bring the project about. They were aware the regional district had agreed to transfer the controversial Cliffe Avenue site to the City, along with $100,000 of funds from VIHA. Ney said they did not see their apartments being built on that site, but believed the City was planning to sell the land so would eventually have the money from a sale available for initiatives to help the wider homeless issue.

She urged the City to team up with the Transition Society to help in various ways, including assisting them to acquire a suitable site covering about half an acre, waiving various fees for permits and consequent development cost charges, and exempting the apartments from property taxation when the project was complete. The Transition Society says single women in the Comox Valley – including those who have had fled the marital home because of threats or actual violence – and their children are in desperate need of safe and supportive second stage transitional housing.

Other communities, with support from B.C. Housing, were progressing similar second stage transitional housing schemes, including one project in neighbouring Campbell River that is nearing completion.

The council took no decision on the issue this week as it has only just taken possession of the Cliffe Avenue site, but will return to the subject later.

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