Letter: Hampshire house ‘foot-dragging’ dismaying

Municipally owned home should be used for refugee housing

Re: Critical link missing in Syrian housing bid, Oak Bay News, March 22, 2016

It is dismaying to read of Oak Bay council’s foot-dragging on the approval to allow a needy Syrian family to temporarily rent a municipally owned house on Hampshire that has sat vacant for two years.

We all know that these families have fled devastating circumstances and endured many months, perhaps years, in refugee camps waiting for the chance to come to Canada. Most of us cannot even imagine what they have endured.

Yet, our neighbourhood of Oak Bay, the richest community in Greater Victoria, wrings its hands in indecision, even though a group of volunteers has come forward with offers to paint and do minor refurbishments to ready the dwelling.

Every year thousands of dollars in municipal grant monies are given to groups of volunteers in Oak Bay who are not constituted as legal entities. Organizing as a non-profit society is a task the municipality has stated is “too onerous” for them. So why has this become a critical issue for housing a Syrian refugee family?

It merely highlights that Oak Bay council appears to be less than willing to help, with any excuse to deny or delay assistance.

Council members have expressed bewilderment at what the families might need. May I suggest a home with a roof, kitchen, bathroom, a couple of bedrooms, a living room – the same as the rest of us.

This is not the complicated matter that council wants us to  believe. The house was rented for 15 years until vacated two years ago.

But since the refugee housing request, suddenly the municipality’s interest in other uses for this property, such as a parking lot, have resurfaced.

I urge the residents of this community to voice your support for these displaced people and request that Oak Bay council to do the right thing and assist them with housing in an expeditious manner.

Lesley Ewing

Oak Bay