The City of Terrace mayor Carol Leclerc says workers could be housed in purpose-built accommodation, buildings which would then become part of the city’s housing inventory once the hospital is finished. (Natalia Balcerzak/Terrace Standard)

Terrace mayor promotes possible affordable housing tie-in to new Memorial Mills hospital

Workers will be brought in for construction, expected to start this fall

Terrace mayor Carol Leclerc hopes she’s planted an idea to combine the $450 million Mills Memorial Hospital replacement project with a way to ease the need here for affordable housing.

It revolves around the prospect of the hospital’s builder needing to bring in any number of outside workers for the project which has an anticipated start date of this fall leading toward completion in 2024.

Those workers could be housed in purpose-built accommodation, buildings which would then become part of the city’s housing inventory once the hospital is finished and the workers leave, she said.

“Considering the community needs for affordable housing, activity in the northwest and a developer that specializes in building hospitals, it would be a shame if housing crews created a challenge or impacted costs,” said Leclerc.

“The thought was that perhaps through BC Housing and the Northern Health Authority, and perhaps the contractor, that if they foresaw housing was going to be a challenge, maybe they would consider modular housing that could go up in a timely fashion to be used during the hospital build, and then later used either as accommodation for people coming to Terrace to access health care or be used for affordable housing.”

Calling the idea a way that could create a legacy once the new hospital opens, Leclerc has already raised it at a meeting of a local committee struck to provide the Northern Health Authority with suggestions surrounding the long-awaited project.

“There wasn’t a huge response,” said Leclerc of an immediate reaction to her idea. “Perhaps people just need time to consider it.”

She added B.C. Housing to her suggestion because it’s the principal provincial government agency responsible for affordable housing in the province.

The committee hasn’t met again since Leclerc made the suggestion but she says she’ll bring it up again at its next session.

READ MORE: Local homeless count set for Terrace this upcoming April

Another suggestion, one that was discarded right away, was to construct an access road leading off of the southern end of the Sande Overpass into the Mills property, creating what would be a four-way intersection controlled by traffic lights.

“Northern Health has indicated that the impact to the site in terms of giving up the land necessary to make this work is not possible with the concept plan that has already been developed for the new hospital,” said City of Terrace chief administrative officer Heather Avison of that idea.

The city is, however, having ongoing discussions with Northern Health about possible improvements to Haugland, which bounds the hospital property to the south.

Although traffic patterns to and from the location aren’t expected to change there will be new access and exit points.

Haugland is narrow has a poor driving surface, has open drainage and poor sidewalks and doesn’t meet modern standards.

Any off-site work stemming from the construction project would be the responsibility of the hospital’s contractor.

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