With only three councillors opposed, 1401 Comox St. in the West End will be home to a 22-storey tower designated exclusively for market rental housing.
Council approved the 186-unit building after more than two years of discussion over the use of the land, which was formerly home to St. John's Church.
Mayor Gregor Robertson spoke in favour of the development to be built by Westbank Projects, citing the need for new rental housing throughout the city.
The mayor's task force on housing affordability released a report Monday saying vacancy rates in the city's rental stock are chronically low, averaging just 0.9 per cent over the past 30 years.
The report also noted only about six per cent of new market development since 2004 has been for rental housing.
Several West End residents against the development were in attendance. Carol Walker, who has lived in the West End for more than 40 years, strongly opposed the new tower. She noted a survey conducted by the West End Neighbours showed less than two per cent support for large scale rental housing in the area.
NPA Coun. George Affleck, Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr and NPA Coun. Elizabeth Ball opposed the development.
While Affleck recognized the need for rental housing, he didn't think a tower on Comox was the best way to do it. "Not only do we have overwhelming lack of support-it's not a development done right," said Affleck. "In this development, I feel we've let the community down."
Carr also took a stand against the project's impact on the unique character of the West End.
"Why we love the West End is because of that diversity, that there aren't towers everywhere and we really need to protect those rare and few pieces of the landscape which are still low-rise. If we develop them with towers, we will never get them back."
Carr also questioned whether the development would meet the requirements of the Short Term Incentives for Rental Program (STIR), a city initiative that provides incentives to developers such as a reduction in property taxes and waiving development cost levies to build affordable housing.
"If you look at the figures- the expected rents put this project and its rental basically in line with the rentals of condos, which isn't affordable."
The city's communications department told the Courier during last fall's election that rents for STIR projects were predicted to range from $780 to $1,800 a month.
A studio apartment in the new development is proposed to rent for $1,040 a month, and a three-bedroom unit at $2,520.
Vision Vancouver Coun. Tim Stevenson supported the project, saying the old church was a dilapidated building with dwindling attendance and citing the need for rental housing. He said the tower is not excessive for the area.
Robertson said he recognized the West End residents' concerns, but argued the rental development was necessary not only for the community, but for the city as a whole.