EDITORIAL: Municipal governments need help with housing crisis

More than two dozen people are scrambling to find housing…
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The Port Pub is located on Argyle Street in Port Alberni. (ELENA RARDON / Echoofthemountain)

More than two dozen people are scrambling to find housing after an emergency evacuation of the low-income Port Pub building on May 30.

It is a scenario we have seen repeatedly in Port Alberni as both the housing and toxic drug crises continue to grow. People within our vulnerable population, who are already scrambling to find suitable housing, are suddenly thrust to the curb with an offer for temporary shelter and not much else.

Having seen photos of the interior of the building months before the emergency evacuation, this situation should have never become so dire. It was only the discovery of asbestos in some broken drywall that prompted the quick evacuation. Asbestos is considered hazardous when airborne, and the Port Pub was classed as moderate to high risk.

This situation has been months in the making, despite the City of Port Alberni doing everything it could to force the building’s owner to bring it up to code.

We understand the city’s hands were tied: staff deserve credit for trying to find creative ways to keep people housed while dealing with an uncooperative building owner in the dead of winter.

However, it’s not enough.

Municipal governments need more options when dealing with nuisance or dangerous buildings. The process is long and onerous, and often includes buck-passing from one level of government to another except in emergencies.

People shouldn’t have to live in squalor before officials are able to step in and fix the situation. People—especially those considered vulnerable, who may be dealing with addiction and mental health issues—deserve to live with dignity. Municipal officials deserve more help from higher levels of government in making it happen. The province’s housing authority boasts of B.C. investing a record amount of funding into delivering new homes—in a statement provided to the AV News, the total is up to $19 billion. Since 2017 BC Housing says “nearly 78,000 homes have been delivered or are underway…including 480 homes in Port Alberni.”

If that much money has been sunk into housing and we are still facing the housing crisis we clearly are, then the current model is not working.

— Echoofthemountain