Metro Van wants to expand Heather Place

Got a question about Heather Place? If you live near 13th and Heather, you may. And if you're looking for a place to rent, you may also want to know more about Heather Place.

So what the heck is Heather Place? In its current form, it's an 86-unit townhouse complex that occupies about two acres of property, bounded by Heather Street on the east, Willow Street on the west, 13th Avenue on the north and 14th Avenue on the south.

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For those geographically challenged, the property is just south of Vancouver General Hospital.

All of the 86 homes, which include one, two and three bedroom units, are rented by the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation, which owns and operates 50 so-called affordable rental sites across the Lower Mainland.

So what's up with Heather Place? It's going to get a whole lot bigger and busier, with the housing corporation wanting to redevelop the site and provide 200 to 300 new rental homes. It's all in the name of providing more rental accommodation in a region in desperate need of more affordable housing, according to Metro Vancouver, which is preparing a rezoning application to go before city council, possibly in the spring.

In the meantime, Metro Vancouver has been gathering feedback from residents and attempting to clarify all those rumours circulating that include renters losing their homes to make way for expensive condos for rich folk.

To do that, Metro Vancouver has just posted a list of frequently asked questions on its website, including what will happen to the current tenants.

Answer: "All existing ten-ants will have right of first refusal to rent new homes in the proposed redevelopment. A process is ongoing with the tenants, including four meetings which have already been held with them, to ensure open and timely communications."

Some others: . Won't tenants be displaced while the project is being built?

"We are planning to phase the development of the site to minimize the number of tenants impacted at any one time."

. How much will rents be in the new development?

"Generally, rents in the new development will be at competitive market rates. Existing tenants receiving a subsidy, or ones that will required a subsidy in the new development, will receive if it they qualify."

. Will parts of the site be sold to a developer for condos?

"At the present time, no. Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation is intending the development to be 100 per cent rental housing."

If you've got a comment, a beef or need a question answered, Metro Vancouver now has an online feedback form on its website. Or get in touch with your local rep on the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation board of directors. That would be Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs, vice-president of the board.

BUDGET DECISION

Depending when you read this, you may or may not have attended/avoided city council's evening budget meeting Dec. 4. That is/was the last chance for residents to tell council what they think about the city's 2012 operating and capital budgets.

Council will decide Dec. 11 on both budgets, which will equate to a two per cent tax hike. The operating budget is worth $1.1 billion and the capital budget, $258 million.

Some of that money will go towards improving bike and pedestrian safety on major transportation routes ($11.8 million), affordable housing ($9.6 million), child care spaces ($5.5 million) and libraries ($4.5 million), including a new one for Strathcona.

mhowell@vancourier.com Twitter: @Howellings

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