The City of Port Alberni is partnering with local First Nations to look at solutions for a “substandard and unsafe housing situation” in the city.
During a council meeting on Dec. 13, the city announced that it is establishing a supportive housing task force to look at short- and long-term supportive housing options in the Alberni Valley, with the “highest priority” being the relocation of citizens currently living in the Wintergreen Apartments trailers.
Recreational trailers began appearing on the Wintergreen Apartments property on Fourth Avenue (across from the Bottle Depot) back in 2020. The trailers have been tied into the apartment’s sewer and electrical system without any plumbing, electrical or structural permits.
In April of this year, a fire broke out in one of the trailers.
“Those trailers are now occupied by some of the most at-risk citizens in our community, and the conditions of their occupancy further endanger those citizens,” said Mayor Sharie Minions in a letter to the task force.
A remedial action order was imposed on the property, and one of the property owners—Randy Brown—has been ticketed numerous times for various zoning, building code and fire code infractions. But Brown states that he has no plans to remove the trailers, which are offering shelter for some of the city’s homeless population.
The city has engaged with the property owners, the RCMP, the province and BC Housing over the last year to try and resolve the issue, but have not been successful.
“The city recognizes that before people are displaced from the trailers, there needs to be safer alternate housing available to them,” said Minions.
Deputy city clerk Twyla Slonksi said the task force held their first meeting on Dec. 16 to “kickstart discussions” about potential solutions. The city invited Tseshaht First Nation, Hupacasath First Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and the Port Alberni Friendship Centre to take part in discussions.
Minions said the intent of the task force is to bring local governments and organizations together and have a conversation as a group.
“It’s important to note that there’s not actual housing providers included in this initial group,” she said. “The intent is that we wouldn’t predetermine which possible providers we may be asking for assistance.”