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Kelowna mayor attends Union of BC Municipalities housing summit

The mayor of the largest city in B.C.’s Interior says he’s keeping pressure on the province to reconsider legislation on homeless housing.

At a housing summit in Vancouver this week, Kelowna mayor Tom Dyas said he spoke with the Minister of Housing and the Minister of Municipal Affairs regarding Bill 45, along with other matters.

According to the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), the legislation limits local governments to manage homeless encampments. In November, the UBCM asked the government to withdraw the legislation.

“If the bill is passed, it is intended that local governments seeking an injunction to remove an encampment will need to provide evidence that there is reasonably available shelter space to the quality outlined in the legislation,” said the UBCM.

“Currently, it is highly unlikely that any community in B.C. has sufficient shelter space for all unhoused persons, so there is reason to believe that it would be practically impossible for local governments seeking an injunction to meet this test.”

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The bill passed third reading on Nov. 30 and received royal assent that day.

“In Kelowna, we have been a willing partner (for homeless housing). We continue to ask for more shelter spaces, complex care, supportive housing and affordable housing options,” said Dyas.

“Yet Bill 45 would remove another tool for municipalities to deal with the downstream impacts in our community to what are provincial mandates and gaps in delivery — housing, health, mental health, drug enforcement, justice.”

In the fall, Kelowna signed an agreement to build 180 shelter spaces within city limits.

Dyas was a panellist at the summit, hosted by the UBCM.

The mayor said he spoke about the need for improved cross-ministry collaboration to better serve the city’s most vulnerable residents, “and for solutions that will improve current conditions within the community more effectively and quickly.”

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