Clearview resident Mindy Ganson addresses city council during a public hearing for the Clearview North Neighbourhood Area Structure Plan at the Sheraton.

Not in our backyard

Homeowners in Clearview North are worried that the neighbourhood they bought into will change with the addition of the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre Society’s affordable housing and cultural centre.

Homeowners in Clearview North are worried that the neighbourhood they bought into will change with the addition of the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre Society’s affordable housing and cultural centre.

About 160 people packed into the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel for a public hearing on the proposed changes to the Clearview North Neighbourhood Area Structure Plan.

The existing plan does not identify a four-acre site for multi-family or affordable housing development. In July 2011, the land, located in the most northwesterly corner of the neighbourhood, was transferred from the province to the city, with the stipulation the land must be used for affordable housing for a minimum of 15 years.

The city has been working with the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre Society since 2008 on its affordable housing plans. The society looks to build a cultural centre that would have attached housing for elders and other low-income residents. The land must be re-zoned to make the changes.

Many speakers at the hearing said the city did not do a good job at communicating these plans. The proposed changes brought up concerns of decreased property value, increased crime and safety. Residents said it was not a matter of race or skin colour but the fact that their neighbourhood was changing from its original plan.

“This almost takes away from the mosaic of our neighourhood,” said Cameron Grove, a Clearview Ridge homeworker. “There’s a nice eclectic mix of people with different backgrounds… I just think if everybody can come in with the same pretense with no preferential treatment to anyone that it would be only beneficial to community building.”

Shona White, a Clearview resident, said transitional housing would lead to increased crime rates. She said proposed changes “create mistrust between the citizens and council” because she wasn’t told when they were buying her home.

Sandra Dalton told council she only heard about the proposed changes in the last stage of development.

“It feels like it is a bait and switch,” she said. “If this parcel of land was a gift from the province, as with any gift, sometimes you can return it.”

One resident brought a petition with more than 500 signatures asking city council to cease action on the proposed amendments.

But amongst the opponents, there was a large contingent of representatives from the Friendship Centre, the aboriginal community and those who work with the street and low-income populations.

Ashley Fleming, a NightReach co-ordinator for the Central Alberta AIDS Network Society, challenged the listeners to think beyond the stereotype of “drunk Indians coming from the reserves” and to move beyond the fears and get to know your neighbours.

Lynn Jonasson, an elder for the Safe Harbour Society, told council First Nations people believe in values of honesty, trust, family and community.

“The vision that was started some time ago was a vision of community,”Jonasson said. “A vision of coming together where we people who could have homes. It wasn’t a vision of a detox centre or treatment centre. It was a vision of families. Families that need a home just like any other citizen of Red Deer.”

Jonasson said he bought his own home in Michener Hill nearly 20 years ago without knowing or caring about his neighbours.

“I bought that home for my wife and my family,” he said. “Then I got to know my neighbours. I have been there for over 20 years now. I have all kinds of neighbours … These people are human beings… We are no different. All we want is homes.”

Tanya Schur, Red Deer Native Friendship Society executive-director, said she understands the residents want safe housing because that’s what all taxpayers and residents want.

“We all want to live in a safe community,” said Schur. “Just because there are multi-family dwellings doesn’t mean it’s not going to be safe. I think that’s a misunderstanding. There are some underlying issues around race and socioeconomic class which is unfortunate for Red Deer to be painted with that brush.”

Schur said she hopes together the citizens in Clearview Ridge and the aboriginal community will have an opportunity to sit together and get to know each other to understand ourselves.

The four-acre parcel is along Caribou Crescent in Clearview North. The proposed affordable housing development is along Carrington Drive. City council will decide on Oct. 15 whether to change the area structure plan.

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