A passionate and sometimes hostile crowd of Mission residents attended a town hall meeting on Monday night.
Mayor and council were on hand to go over major projects and priorities and answer questions from the public. However, the audience was mainly focused on two issues – secondary suites and a new seniors’ centre.
The district is cracking down on unauthorized secondary suites and will be charging double fees for sewer, water and garbage to homeowners who rent out suites. That averages out to about an additional $1,200 in fees.
Many in attendance felt that the extra fee will hurt the renter, not the property owners, as rents would likely rise.
“There are a lot of seniors, with very low incomes, living in basement suites,” said Bob Ingram, president of the Mission Seniors Centre Association.
He’s concerned that the changes will negatively impact them.
But Mission Mayor Randy Hawes said staff is working on solutions to prevent extra hardship for people with low incomes.
“For those seniors that have a very limited income and can’t afford to live other than in a basement suite, we will find a way to accommodate them.”
But those details have yet to be worked out. Ingram suggested the secondary suite fee plan has been implemented too quickly. He asked council to wait a year to work out all the details.
Hawes said postponing the extra fee collection would mean $2 to $3 million dollars in revenue would be lost.
Others in attendance asked council when a new seniors’ centre would be built. Seniors have been trying to get council to approve a new structure for years.
“We’ve been at this for so many years with so many councils. So many people have died waiting for this damn thing,” said Heather Anderson.
Others suggested that a new centre could incorporate low- cost seniors’ housing above it.
Hawes told the crowd that they are already looking into that possibility.
“We got $10,000 from CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) to do a study to look at a seniors’ centre and if it was possible to put residences above it,” he said.
While the report is already due to be completed, council has not yet seen it.
Hawes said he doesn’t know if it is viable to have homes included in a centre and if it’s not feasible, then “we are going to look at a seniors’ centre without apartments.”
But many in the crowd voiced their doubts that a centre is forthcoming.
“What you’re hearing a lot of is extreme frustration. This is the third council I’ve worked with in respect to a seniors’ centre,” said Ingram. “All I’m asking is for God’s sake do something.”
Ingram’s group has suggested a multi-generational facility to accommodate both seniors and youth.