The city has turned down a rezoning application by Pacific Arbour Retirement Communities to build a six-storey seniors facility just south of Stong’s Market based on concerns about affordability.
“City staff carefully reviewed the proposal to see if it demonstrated an enhanced level of affordability. Based on the review of rents, as well as community response to date, staff do not support the six-storey building proposed on the site,” wrote Mayor Gregor Robertson in a letter about the decision.
“City staff have informed the applicant that they are welcome to submit a revised proposal that better incorporates staff feedback on affordability and input from the community.”
Pacific Arbour owns and operates several residences for seniors across Metro Vancouver.
The Vancouver project was proposed for a site on the east side of the 4600 block of Dunbar Street between 30th and 31st avenues.
Pacific Arbour estimated the monthly cost for a one-bedroom at $5,000, which includes services.
Brian Jackson, the city’s general manager of planning and development, told the Courier Wednesday that if the proposal had demonstrated that some of the units would be affordable, it might have been taken into consideration. But staff had to look at whether it was a good fit for the neighbourhood.
“We’ve said we cannot consider a six-storey building being in conformance with the vision of the Dunbar area, first of all, and [there’s] the fact that there is no affordability for seniors in this development,” he said. “So the only way we would reconsider that advice is if they either included affordability or if they wanted to come in with a four-storey building.”
Jackson explained the $5,000 figure is too high.
“So we would be looking at an amount significantly below that for somebody who perhaps did not have that kind of income to be able to continue to live in Dunbar or move to Dunbar,” he said. “We don’t have a figure for affordable seniors living, but it would have to be a level significantly below, whether that’s 10 per cent, 20 per cent, 50 per cent — we haven’t determined that yet, but $5,000 in our view doesn’t qualify for affordable housing.”
Peter Gaskill, Pacific Arbour’s president, is scheduled to meet Jackson Thursday to find out more details about the decision and the city’s objectives.
“We want to better understand staff’s position on it and find out what they would consider as appropriate, so we can determine if it’s feasible to proceed with the development,” he said.
Gaskill questioned what’s meant by affordable.
“If we built something that’s unaffordable, then that means nobody could pay for it and we’d be out of business,” he said. “So we don’t intend to build anything that’s unaffordable.”
He pointed out the $5,000 estimate includes services such as three meals a day, a host of activities, a driver to transport residents, housekeeping, a personal trainer with expertise dealing with seniors, utilities, an emergency call system and 24-hour security.
“It’s quite a rich service we offer for that money and it’s the only way we could make the deal work given the land costs and construction costs. And, of course, with a loss of density it’s not feasible to do it at that rate. Then we do think it becomes unaffordable and then we can’t proceed because we can’t charge what it would actually cost to deliver the service in a smaller building,” he said. “And in terms of what’s affordable, when people are selling their houses for $1.5 to $2 million, I would say most seniors that own a house in that area would not have any problem at all with affordability at $5,000 a month. So we think it is a price that is affordable and it’s also a price that just gives us the return we require without being greedy.”