Surrey Council Rejects Inclusive and Affordable Housing

In a blow to inclusive and affordable housing, Surrey city council rejected the Harmony Apartments development to provide housing to persons with disabilities and other housing barriers.

By Spencer van Vloten

BC Disability

July 28th, 2021

Despite overwhelming community support, the Harmony Apartments development to provide inclusive and affordable quality housing to Surrey residents with disabilities and other barriers to housing was rejected 5-3 by city council on Tuesday July 27th.

Spencer van Vloten talked with Doug Tennant, CEO of UNITI, the non-profit leading the Harmony development, to get his reaction to the decision.

Spencer: How are you feeling now that city council rejected Harmony?

Doug: We’re resilient. UNITI's existed for 63 years. If Harmony isn’t going to be built through this council, we’ll just build affordable and inclusive housing on that property when we have leadership that understands the need for it.

So I don’t feel bad for UNITI, but who I feel really bad for, are the many people we’ve talked with who were desperately looking forward to Harmony as a place they could call home.

These are people with intellectual disabilities who are living with aging parents; these are 80-year-old women who’ve been evicted from basements. These are the people who don’t have affordable places to live in South Surrey.

Despite overwhelming community support for Harmony, Surrey city council voted against it

It may not happen with the current city council, but we look forward to the time when Surrey understands and achieves its mandate of affordable housing, rather than putting up barriers to it.

Spencer: What do you think of the reasons the councillors gave for voting against Harmony?

Doug: Amazingly, they gave no reason when they made the decision on Tuesday morning. That silence’s pretty telling—maybe they didn’t have a good reason.

Frankly, I don’t think it's respectful to the 6000 people who supported the Harmony petition, the 450 who wrote in to show their support, or all the people who phoned in. They deserved an explanation.

In the news, I have seen councillor Laurie Guerra say that there wasn’t enough public consultation, and that’s just not true; in fact, we went far above the consultation requirements and have been doing them for years on this.

Opposed: Laurie Guerra, Doug Elford, Mandeep Nagra, and Allison Patton were among the councillors to vote against the inclusive and affordable housing development

Other reasons that have been mentioned were that 6 stories is too high and would in