Friendship Centre housing plan proceeds

Red Deer Native Friendship Centre Society has worked with the City of Red Deer and the provincial government for several years on its plans for affordable housing and a cultural centre in Clearview North, says the society’s executive director.

Red Deer Native Friendship Centre Society has worked with the City of Red Deer and the provincial government for several years on its plans for affordable housing and a cultural centre in Clearview North, says the society’s executive director.

Tanya Schur said a number of residents are wondering about the friendship centre plans because they seem to have cropped up out of nowhere.

In fact, the centre’s plans have been in the works since 2008, she said.

The four-acre site along Caribou Crescent is in the most northwesterly corner of the neighbourhood, south of 67th Street and east of the Gaetz Lakes sanctuary. The city acquired the land from the provincial government on the condition that the lands be used for affordable housing for at least 15 years.

The city is now looking at changing the area structure plan, as well as rezoning.

Schur said they have funding for 32 units, so that is what they are targeting for.

The society is working with an architect to come up with designs for multi-family attached dwellings.

“We would be looking at a concept of two wings of housing with the friendship centre in the middle,” said Schur.

The friendship centre will have a small gathering space for fewer than 100 people, plus offices and potentially other aboriginal agencies.

Schur said she understands some residents are confused about what affordable housing will look like on the site.

“Affordable housing is defined as 10 per cent below market value — that’s what we’re talking about building,” Schur said.

Schur said everyone who ends up in one of these units will commit to a sober lifestyle.

It’s not a Housing First project, she said.

Housing First focuses on moving homeless people from shelters and the streets into permanent housing as quickly as possible and they also receive supports.

“In order to be a part of our housing program now, you have to have a plan for sobriety and make that commitment,” said Schur.

The friendship centre will always have an outreach place downtown to help aboriginals in need, Schur added.

Schur said some of those 32 units will house aboriginal elders, which is very important in having the culture available to the community members.

The friendship cultural centre will run various programs, from parenting and women’s wellness to beading classes and dance classes. All will be open to non-aboriginals as well.

“It’s a great opportunity for community members to learn about the culture as well,” said Schur. “This is something that our community has talked about for decades — of having a community gathering space on the land, where the land would be a part of the cultural experience.”

The land was set aside for a project like this, added Schur.

People generally will do better when they have direct access to supports and services, plus they are away from the downtown.

t makes sense to put residents in a residential area, she added.

Access to the culture is integral to housing success, Schur added.

Red Deerians will hear more about the project on Sept. 19 at Eastview Middle School from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

A presentation will run at 5 p.m.

Council will then hold a public hearing on Oct. 1 at 6 p.m. at the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel. Any decisions will be put off until the next council meeting on Oct. 15.

Planning manager Tara Lodewyk said residents in Clearview will receive information in the mail this week about the coming meeting.

“People have gotten excited for the next stage of what might come when we are still dealing with the generalities of the use,” said Lodewyk.

Lodewyk said the original zoning calls for single family and multi-family, and now it’s looking at multi-family and a worship centre site. The original area structure plan was done in 2007. The province gave conditions for affordable housing in 2011, when the land was signed over.

“We don’t talk about the users in our land use bylaw,” said Lodewyk. “It’s this additional agreement that the province has put on us that we now have to look at affordable housing there. Right now, you can put 36 units on there with the current area structure plan and current zoning.”

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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