Surrey residents are raising concerns about a number of social housing developments being built in Guildford and Whalley. They say existing complexes have caused a spike in crime and more facilities will be detrimental to the community.
“Our neighbourhood is kind of under siege,” said Robert, a resident of Whalley. He asked CTV News to protect his identity, for fear his home could be targeted.
“We have people constantly roaming our streets, stealing whatever they can, breaking into our cars, vandalizing cars and rampant drug use.”
Robert lives down the street from Peterson Place, a social housing complex that opened a decade ago. He says crime has been on the rise in the area ever since.
“Most of my neighbours support these social programs, but not in our neighbourhood,” he said.
That stance was echoed during a marathon public hearing last week. At the hearing, city councillors approved two more apartment buildings: One near 132 Street and King George Boulevard and another next to the Lookout Housing and Health Society near 147 Street and 104 Avenue. Councillors listened to nearly three hours of public feedback at the meeting, with emotionally charged testimonies forcing the mayor to call the room to order numerous times.
“It was a really tough decision, but we made the right decision,” said city councillor Lina Annis.
“It’s not the right fit,” he said. “Moving them into neighbourhoods, into residential neighbourhoods where there’s no stores. There’s nothing here.”
Supporters of the project say the facilities are desperately needed.
“Nobody wants these people in their back yard, but these people are somebody’s daughter, mother and son, brother,” said Rachel Plamondon, a Guildford resident.
Plamondon spent two decades homeless and addicted to drugs. She says social housing saved her life.
“I believe without housing that that would have been impossible for me to get to where I am today,” she told CTV News.
She says much of the crime plaguing Surrey is an act of survival.
“Statistically, when housing projects like these come in these concerns with break-ins and stuff dramatically drop.”
She hopes those stats will break some of the stigma that comes with social housing.