The City of Kamloops is taking steps to address social issues after some West Victoria Street business owners cited problems with crime and nuisance behaviour in the area.
Last week, the city’s community services committee heard of plans to implement a good neighbour agreement between the city and social agencies involved with future housing projects. The city has been working with Interior Health, BC Housing and social agencies on a vulnerable population housing planning committee, which has been dealing with impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the city’s vulnerable. A good neighbour agreement was piloted at Memorial Arena with the Canadian Mental Health Association, which is currently operating temporary housing in the building, beds that have not yet been used.
Part of the agreement includes a clause to promote Kamloops as a “safe” and “attractive” community for the enjoyment of everyone, including businesses and their workers. In signing the agreement, agencies agree to comply with city bylaws, including the good neighbour bylaw, monitor the activity of patrons outside the premise, not tolerate criminal activity on the property, actively monitor and prevent littering and vandalism outside and conduct exterior cleanups. The agency must also agree to work with RCMP and neighbours, including all staff and volunteers.
The city says the pilot was successful and it now wishes to implement similar agreements with social agencies for new projects in Kamloops.
However, questions remain as to whether the agreement will apply to housing projects already in place and whether the agreement has teeth.
When asked by a city councillor if the agreement is legally binding, acting CAO Byron McCorkell told the committee the idea behind the agreement is “partnership” rather than authority.
Whereas a good neighbour agreement is required to operate a cannabis store in Kamloops, the city does not issue a business license to housing agencies and therefore cannot tie permitting to the agreement. McCorkell said housing opportunities usually arise after BC Housing and an agency have identified land on which to build. He said the city wants those conversations in the future to include the good neighbour agreement, providing the city a seat at the table for conversations involving social housing.
“It is quasi-legal in some respects in that we don’t have any authority in that it’s zoned properly, there’s no way to not issue a business licence, that kind of thing,” McCorkell said. “It’s really, I think, an example of partnership. One would expect — and we have learned to expect it with our social side — they want to do the right thing. … We don’t believe this is going to be a huge hurdle.”
The template for the good neighbour agreement is already used by social agencies to hold residents of supportive-housing projects accountable. The new measure would see agencies accountable to the city. It is unclear whether agencies operating existing housing projects will be required to sign the agreement.
Mayor Ken Christian said he does not want to signal ownership by the city, noting housing falls under the purview of the provincial government.
“We have to be very careful there, where neighbouring businesses say, ‘You’re not living up to the agreement that you signed with them. You have to do something about it,’ as opposed to the partnership approach that we have taken,” Christian said.
McCorkell noted it is also a concern the city has. The committee also heard the Kamloops RCMP is in the process of reviewing a report on crime prevention through environmental design for the West Victoria Street area.