Abbotsford Supportive Housing  Same Song, Different Tune

By Lilly Kaetler. On February 19, 2014, Abbotsford City Council members voted  against the “rezoning” of 2408  Montvue Ave.for a 20-bed mens supportive (low barrier) housing unit, across the street from the non-profit organization, who would operate the facility, namely, Abbotsford Community  Services located at 2420 Montrose Ave.


The ADBA and Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce stance on the proposed low barrier housing at 2408 Montvue is a repeat of the same oppositon towards a 2003 rezoning application by the Salvation Army to allow a 9 bed bridge house on Cyril st, ten years ago.


zoningA municipal zoning By-law provides “a legal way to regulate land use, development and parking in a city.” It is not a promise or a contractual agreement between a citizen/s in a city.


Abbotsford zoning Amendment By-2301-2013 was to add a site specfic  text amendament to C7 zoning in the “Business Improvement area” to allow Community Service accessory use to a residential use subject to a Housing Agreement to be signed between Community Services and the City of Abbotsford.



 2014 Housing agreement, which would have been signed between The City of Abbotsford,

 BC Housing  and Abbotsford Community Services, if the project had been approved:





The ADBA vocally opposed the 2014 ACS low barrier housing project, since they say the land is in the  C7 (Commercial zone) which prohibits supportive recovery homes and it would lead to more crime and drugs in the Business Improvement Area (BIA).






The News reported on October 3, 2014,  “while the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce supports  a housing first approach to addressing homelessness, it should not be in the C7 zone.”  Both, President, Mike Welte and Allan Asaph spoke against the 2408 Montvue text amendment to C7 zoning application.




The Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, also, wrote a letter to Chamber members encouraging  them to oppose the ACS housing proposal




The Abbotsford Chamber has raised  concerns about the location of a low barrier housing facility in the C7 Commercial Zone, but,  according to Rod Santiago, “ if the facility would have been 10 feet across the street, C7 zoning would not have been an issue.”


It is necessary to question Abbotsford Chamber’s reasons for opposing the ACS low barrier Housing proposal, since it was the ADBA and the Abbotsford Chamber, who worked together to initiate a single By-law to permit recovery houses in residential zones, while at same time advocating for city to create the C7 zone, in order to exclude recovery houses and emergency  shelters.


Similar arguments that were used, by ADBA  to oppose the Salvation Army rezoning application back in 2002 were reiterated as the same reasons for opposition to the Abbotsford Community Services

Project, 2014,  and many of the same people, once again, came out in support of these two groups.


In 2002, The ADBA voiced their apprehension:

  • Historic Abbotsford will deteriorate into an area like the downtown eastside of Vancouver, says the ADBA
  • The location for the new Salvation Army project is completely wrong and has created a social catastrophe downtown.
  • Bob Bos said, people will start selling their properties in the downtown.
  • Mayor in waiting Mary Reeves and ex- ADBA board member ,also, added her support on behalf of the ADBA, saying, “Do we want downtown abbotsford to look like East Vancouver.”


Source: The Abbotsford News Sep 10, 2002


Link:  Salvation Army Bridge (Second-stage Recovery House) proposal on Cyril St., 2002

On Sept 9, 2002, the City of Abbotsford voted down the Salvation Army rezoning application (Variance to C-5 commercial zoning) to allow  a 9 bed Bridge House (recovery house) and 12 bed emergency shelter at their old Cyril St. location.


Shortly after the vote, a Bridge House Select Committee was formed to find an alternate location and in the process,  they came up with the idea to locate second –stage recovery houses in ‘all ‘  low density residential zones.


Several councillors voiced their concerns about the committees’ request to impose one single by-law to allow recovery houses in all residental neighborhoods without public consent and it was voted  it down.



Source:  The News, January, 2004


The Bridge House Select Committee members included, past president of the ADBA, Bob Bos, who is a presently a director on the 2013/2014 ADBA board of directors and strongly opposed the ACS rezoning  application along with most of the present ADBA board, on the basis of need to preserve C7 zoning in BIA.  Glen Hope, representative from the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce in 2003 was  also on this  committee.

committee membership


The views of the “Bridge House Select Committee”  members were documented in 2004 as follows:


Dev 003-2004   Source for quote above.


LINK:  Bridge House Select Committee 


It wasn’t until 2007,when Council adopted By-law 1701-2004  amendment to permit Second stageSupportive Recovery Use in all family residential zones, which required a Public Hearing for each rezoning application, a housing agreement and strict regulations for operation of these supportive Recovery houses in residential areas.


Below is a list of  zones permitting Supportive Recovery Houses:

Dev 207-2007   Text Amendment…………



At this same time,  C7 Zoning, which became By-law on November 2, 2002  was amended in 2007 to not  include recovery houses in C7 zone in the Business Improvement area in east downtown Abbotsford.



Unlike, the ACS Low Barrier Housings’ rezoning application, a text amendment to the existing C7 zoning By-Law , the  rezoning for supportive recovery houses required a “major OCP amendment, in order to permit second-stage recovery Houses in all residential neighborhoods.
2004 Supportive Housing Rezoning proposal


The Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce gave it’s support via the Bridge House Select Committee in 2004 to allow Supportive Recovery Houses to be located in all residential zones and  supported putting low barrier housing in a recreational area, 2008, which would have, also, required  amendments to residential zoning.

They stated, “we support the city in all adversity.’   Yet, here we are in 2014, and  the Chamber opposed the Abbotsofrd Community Services low barrier housing proposal, due its location in C7 zoned BIA.


Source:  The News   Nov 28, 2008

There have been, however, several zoning changes in the past few years, in relation to Supportive Recovery Houses in the city, in addition to the changes mentioned, above.  Kinghaven Drug and Alcohol Recovery Centre property on King Road,   not only had to have a rezoning change, but, land had to be released out of the ALR to enable them to build a second stage recovery facility.  In addition, just recently the Supportive Recovery Housing Bylaw had a text amendment to allow a second-stage recovery house on Melmar St., Clearbrook, despite By-law regulation specifying, a 200 distance between recovery houses.


I do not recall the Chamber of Commerce come out to address the text amendment to accomodate another recovery house on the same street, despite of the existing By-law specifying 200m distance between recovery houses in residential zones.  They did not say “it is unfair to change the rules” for this rezoning application.


Furthermore, there have been several modifications/text amendments to the “initial” C7 zone By-law over the years, including, allowing The Royal Canadian Legion, a liquor license in 2003 as well as adding new properties to the C7 zone.


Not only can a city make amendments to existing zones, change or add new zones, they can make changes to the OCP (Official Community Plan) to accommodate changing growth and developmentneeds of a community.   There are no promises to the people/business in this city that the rezoning of their properties will always remain in the same zoning.


One must question whether opposition by the ADBA and Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce is less about C7 zoning changes and more about protecting the developer/investor interests of a “certain” group of people,  who are deeply rooted in the business community and are used to a culture of “entitlement.”


Mayor Banman, Councillor John Smith and Bill McGregor are associated with these people thru the city committees and as representative on these organizations, who represent this certain group of people, who have investments in the ADBA.


They have the choice to support these businesses, but do not do it under the disguise of the threat of demise of small business (leasees) and C7 zoning.  Do not advocate a double standard, which is dividing the city, instead of bringing the community together and building an “inclusive” city.



Lastly, it is, also, important to question the actions of the City of Abbotsford, over the last eight years, in relation to the 2008 Memorandum of Understanding, between the City of Abbotsford and B.C. Housing.


The City of Abbotsford was well aware of the opposition to recovery houses in the east Abbotsford (BIA),dating back to 2002, and as a result  ADBA went as far to have the city implement a C7 zone to protect it from recovery houses and Emergency shelter use in 2007, when the city decided to regulate recovery houses.


What was the city thinking to move forward with a recovery house project proposal in the C7 zone, given, the amount of opposition in the past and establishment of the BIA/C7 rezoning?


If that is not enough, the City of Abbotsford, also, met a lot of opposition, when they tried to place a “low barrier housing” project in City Centre in 2008, yet, they did not see this as a signal of the need to bring the community together to find a location suitable for low barrier housing, before further BC Housing funding came thru.


The City of Abbotsford formed ASDAC in 2006 to “address the cities’ most pressing needs.”  Councillor John Smith served on the committee as chair for four years and since 2010, Mr. R. VanWyk has been Chair of ASDAC, but,  some of the present committee members say the city has not been listening to their concerns.


I asked Mayor and Council, back in 2008, why the city had not already purchased land (location) most acceptable for low barrier Housing, when funding for two supportive housing initiatives were brought forward in that year, by BC Housing.


So, here we are, eight years later, since ASDAC was formed and the City still has not found a location in the city for low barrier housing, which would maximize benefits and minimize risks for tenants of such a facility, it’s surrounding neighborhood, and for the well being of the city as a whole.

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