Woodwynn Farms has a new owner: the Province of British Columbia.
In a media release Wednesday, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said the purchase, made through BC Housing, would create a therapeutic-recovery community. That goal is similar to the goal stated by the Creating Homefulness Society, the former owners of the property. However, the province made it clear there would be no housing on the site.
“The purchase of Woodwynn Farms means we can provide more services for people living in supportive housing who will benefit from access to extended therapeutic care,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in a media release. “This type of support is proven to increase people’s ability to maintain their housing, and eventually move on to independent living.”
In the release, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy said “Providing people with a secure home, a supportive community and a sense of value is so important to the journey of recovery.”
In total, the provincial government budgeted $6.9 million for purchase, including $5.8 million for the land (appraised at $6 million) and renovations, fees and soft costs of $1.1 million. The purchase follows the May 2018 announcement of another therapeutic-recovery community in View Royal, run by the Our Place Society.
“This property offers an exciting healing opportunity for people struggling with mental-health and substance-use issues,” said Don Evans, executive director of Our Place Society. “A recovery-oriented therapeutic model, grounded in farming the land, will be a tremendous resource for our community.”
While there will be no housing on-site, the release said BC Housing will work with the District of Central Saanich and housing providers in the CRD. In the short term, BC Housing will use a farm manager to directly oversee the farm.
In an interview, Central Saanich mayor Ryan Windsor said the District would treat the province the same way they would treat any land owner.
“Basically we’re awaiting further information,” said Windsor, adding he could not speculate on whether the government would apply for building permits and what those specifics would be.
During Richard Leblanc’s tenure as executive director of the Creating Homefulness Society, on-site housing was a major sticking point between the Society and the Agricultural Land Commission, which twice-denied their application to create housing on the 193-acre farm itself. Most recently, a November 2017 ALC decision did not permit the Society to allocate two acres of the site for tiny homes for 40 people.
The province’s media release said the future therapeutic-recovery community would conform to the land’s existing Agricultural Land Reserve designation and associated land-use bylaws.
Teri DuTemple, chair of the Creating Homefulness Society, could not be reached before deadline, but in an April interview with the PNR, she said they hoped to continue because they wanted to work with the homeless, and they hoped there would be money left over after paying their debts so they could begin a new project.
“We are all in this together because we wanted to work with the homeless, and we still believe in that mission,” she said in April.