The following is the letter we submitted to the City in response to Carmichael Outreach’s application to rezone the building on the corner of 12th Avenue and St. John St. More information on the application can be found here.
December 13, 2016
To City of Regina staff, Planning Commission, and Council:
We are writing in response to the proposed Zoning Amendment (16-Z-17) – 1510 12th Avenue.
This proposal, and the potential re-location of Carmichael Outreach to this property, has raised a significant amount of conversation in our neighbourhood. We have been listening to all of it, and have attempted to capture its breadth in our response.
Carmichael Outreach is an integral part of our neighbourhood, serving our City’s most vulnerable people. Nearly all of the community feedback we have received is in support of Carmichael staying in the neighbourhood and expanding their services. There has been wide acknowledgement by Heritage community members that Carmichael’s work is important and welcome in our neighbourhood.
Most of the feedback we have received from community members has been in support of Carmichael’s application to re-zone and move into the building at 1510 12th Avenue. They are excited about the possibility of the long-vacant building being renovated and made useful and vibrant again. They want Carmichael to be able to expand and improve the quality and dignity of their services, and they see this property as being a suitable new home for the organization.
We have also heard from a handful of residents, most of whom live in the immediate vicinity of the property in question, who are opposed to Carmichael moving to this location. The main concerns we have heard are: decreased property values (and a resulting increase in absentee landlords), increased crime and litter, and decreased safety. Among the neighbours who oppose the move are a couple that has indicated to us that they experience barriers to employment and are counting on their house for their retirement savings, a retiree who lives alone on a fixed income, and a single parent of three young children. Some of these people have lived on the block for over a decade, and have seen it change from mainly rental properties with absentee landlords (including houses with gang activity and drugs) to mainly owner-occupied homes. They are worried that Carmichael’s move will be detrimental to their quality of life, their safety, and their futures. We understand that these possibilities are frightening to some residents, and we have considered their concerns very carefully in developing our response to this application.
Research on Community Members’ Concerns
Our research on property values has turned up no evidence that Carmichael’s move will necessarily result in lower property values in the immediate vicinity. Property values depend on many factors and are difficult to predict. While we found little to no research on the impact of non-shelter homelessness service organizations like Carmichael, studies on the impact of shelters and supportive housing (affordable housing with additional supports for formerly homeless people) indicate that they have either a positive impact on property values in the surrounding area, or none at all. [i]
Regarding crime and safety, the Regina Police Services report that Carmichael has relatively few calls for service. Carmichael staff have a good relationship with their clients, and their clients do not tend to commit crimes in the immediate vicinity of the organization. There is also no evidence to suggest that the people who use Carmichael’s services are dangerous to neighbours or passersby.
With concern to litter including needles, the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region reports that the needle exchange program run out of Carmichael has a 99.97% return rate, meaning nearly all of the clean needles they hand out are returned to their facility and properly disposed of. Carmichael also holds regular Community Clean-Ups, during which their staff and volunteers pick up litter including needles throughout the neighbourhood.
Finally, regarding traffic, it is true that the re-location of Carmichael would bring higher numbers of people into the area surrounding their building. Their lunch program feeds about 200 people every day. It is likely, however, that based on the location of other services accessed by their clients, most of the traffic to/from Carmichael will enter/exit from the West of the building. It is unlikely that there will be a large increase in traffic to the North of the building along the residential 1800-block St. John St. Carmichael also predicts that having a larger space, and being able to serve meals indoors, will decrease the number of people congregating outside of the building.
Neighbourhood Plans & Studies
Our analysis of several neighbourhood plans and studies has given us many reasons to support this application.
The Core Neighbourhood Sustainability Action Plan recognizes that vacant and abandoned buildings are a major source of discontent in this neighbourhood and encourages the “adaptive re-use of buildings” in order to “preserve current infrastructure and the historical character of the neighbourhood” (under Strategy 3: Establish a long-term, sustainable housing strategy). The building at 1510 12th Avenue has been mainly unoccupied for several years. A 2008 study on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design in our neighbourhood identifies vacant properties as a safety issue: “Auditors called for the reuse or redevelopment of vacant properties as a step toward improving the security of the neighbourhood.”
The Sustainability Action Plan also recognizes the need to “Expand current recreation facilities… To ensure that adequate recreation facilities are provided for Core residents (there is a strongly identified need for such facilities in the community, but currently there is no facility of an appropriate size to accommodate large gatherings, performances, and sports activities)” (Action 6 under Strategy 1: Strengthen Resident Engagement and Build Neighbourhood Capacity). Carmichael intends to lend the main floor of the building to other community organizations for holding events.
The Core Neighbourhood Sustainability Action Plan also encourages us to “Improve access to existing food programs” (Action 3 under Strategy 4: Enhance food security and provide access to quality food). The size of the building at 1510 12th Avenue will allow Carmichael’s clients to access and consume their food indoors, sitting down, rather than in take-away containers through a window at the back of the building as they currently do. This greatly enhances access to Carmichael’s existing food program.
Several Actions under Strategy 5 (Improve Safety & Reduce Crime) also support this application, including:
- Action 1: “Support/enable community cleanup and maintenance.” Carmichael does regular community cleanups in the neighbourhood, picking up litter including needles from streets, parks and alleys.
- Action 4: “Eliminate needle disposal on private and public property.” Carmichael’s needle exchange program provides people who use needles with a safe and easy way to dispose of used needles.
- Action 6: “Secure resources for new or expanded programming (including consideration of harm reduction safe injection sites, needle exchange… etc.)”
In the 2010 Analysis of Survey Responses as presented by the HCA’s Urban Aboriginal Strategy, a survey of self-declared First Nations residents of the Heritage neighbourhood, 10.2% of respondents indicated that they access services through Carmichael Outreach, and 11.6% identified “Close to Services” as something that brought them to live in the neighbourhood. This evidence supports Carmichael staying in the neighbourhood.
Stance of the Heritage Community Association
Based on all of the feedback we have received, and on our analysis of neighbourhood plans and studies, the Heritage Community Association supports this application.
With our support comes a commitment to helping to facilitate ongoing communication between Carmichael and residents. If this application is approved, Carmichael would only be moving a short distance from their current location, but it is a significantly different location in terms of its immediate neighbours (from parking lots to residential properties).
Our 2008 study Core Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design provides important insight into the complexity of this neighbourhood:
“The mixed-use nature of the Core neighbourhood adds layers of complexity to these issues that would not be found in a more homogeneously residential or commercial neighbourhood. The mixture of residential, industrial, retail, and city properties create a complex situation when it comes to issues of crime prevention and safety in Core alleys… Because all these diverse areas exist side-by-side, they interact to varying degrees depending on traffic flow and proximity. Strategies to address the issues… must consider and work with the economic, social, and geographic diversity and complexity of the Core neighbourhood. Successful strategies will require the commitment and coordination of the various stakeholders.”
We encourage Carmichael to continue to pay very close attention to its impact on, and relationship with, its future neighbours. Immediate neighbours have some valid concerns, and Carmichael has a responsibility to be responsive to those. The Heritage Community Association hopes to support ongoing honest, open dialogue on the issues that have been raised by this application.
Carmichael is not responsible for the issues of crime, addictions, and poverty that already exist in our city and neighbourhood, and should not be blamed for bringing these issues with them. Rather, they and their neighbours should consider themselves partners in addressing these issues together.
Heritage Community Association Board of Directors
[i]The Impact of Supportive Housing on Surrounding Neighbourhoods: Evidence from New York City. Furman Center. November 2008. http://furmancenter.org/files/FurmanCenterPolicyBriefonSupportiveHousing_LowRes.pdf
Overcoming Community Opposition to Homelessness Sheltering Projects under the National Homelessness Initiative. Government of Canada. September 2003. http://www.urbancenter.utoronto.ca/pdfs/elibrary/NHINIMBY.pdf