Coquitlam councillors were both shocked and mystified Monday as they read through submission after submission from southwest Coquitlam residents opposing a planned affordable housing project for seniors.
Located at 352 Marmont St., the site is currently occupied by a two-storey duplex. The applicant behind the proposal, the Bulgarian Home Society of B.C., is planning to convert the duplex into a seven-unit project for low-or moderate-income seniors.
As part of the proposed zoning amendment, the city has already begun its public feedback process and has received 11 comment forms and one petition.
Every response the city has received has expressed opposition to the proposal, for reasons such as the potential for increased traffic and crime, decreased property values and a departure from the neighbourhood's current esthetic.
"Some of the comments that have been made that somehow crime in the area will increase . can you imagine [people] 65 years old and higher will create some crime in the area? My God, that is really reaching," said Coun. Lou Sekora.
In an interview Tuesday, Mayor Richard Stewart said the negative feedback likely has little to do with the occupants themselves, but rather the fact that they are renters.
"I'll be blunt - I'm embarrassed by some of the comments from a few people in Coquitlam about this," he said. "Some of those comments were incredibly inappropriate and they speak to the NIMBY sentiments that often get passed on."
Part of the correspondence the city received included a lengthy petition signed by 30 residents, most of whom live on Marmont Street and Walls Avenue.
Though no name is attached to the letter portion of the petition, the person behind the document suggests, "we are very uncomfortable with having affordable rental apartment [sic] in our neighbourhood. As we've seen, even with the current residents at 352 Marmont, there have been regular disturbances between the tenants, and few cases where police had to show up. possibly [sic] even for growing marijuana."
The petition also goes on to suggest that the area is already subject to incidents of theft and door-to-door scams, and that the addition of the affordable housing units "may increase rate [sic] of crime, over crowdedness."
"Providing housing for those folks who are on limited income, who can't afford to stay in their homes or can't afford market rent . and what you're saying is you don't want those people in your neighbourhood?" asked Coun. Selina Robinson. "[That's] really, always for me, cause for concern."
The first reading of the zoning amendment passed unanimously Monday. It's expected the issue will again be before council at a Dec. 10 public hearing.