Vancouver council gives thumbs up to five-storey moderate-income building

Decisions on two 14-storey buildings proposed for East Hastings Street still to come

And then there were four. Four projects approved under the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program, that is.

The latest project — a five-storey rental building that will be constructed on a site at 1956 to 1990 Stainsbury Ave. near Trout Lake — was approved in a 10-1 decision after a public hearing Jan. 21. Only NPA Coun. Colleen Hardwick voted against the rezoning application.

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The first three of 20 rezoning applications allowed under the pilot program, known by the acronym MIRHPP, were approved late last year.

Thirteen of the 80 units in the Stainsbury Avenue building will be for moderate-income households earning between $30,000 and $80,000. Residents in those 13 units will pay between about $950 and $2,000 in rent depending on the size of a unit. Units range from studios to three-bedrooms.

Some speakers noted several new buildings have been approved in the neighbourhood over the past five years and it’s too much development without investment into community amenities.

One man described the community as “the epicentre of the city’s affordable housing initiative” and argued existing schools, libraries and other amenities can’t accommodate this degree of growth. He said the neighbourhood plan is “painfully out of date” and the elementary school, Lord Selkirk, is bursting at the seams.   

Although he lives less than 100 metres from the school’s front door, his child was still put on a waiting list for the English program at the school — luckily he landed a spot.

“This is a serious issue. Somebody else [at the public hearing] mentioned to invite 500 more families to this neighbourhood with the idea that they’re going to get to go to Lord Selkirk, and use all the amenities at Trout Lake, [is] really unrealistic without some sort of overall neighbourhood plan.”

An increase in traffic volume in the area, as well as vehicle speeds, were also cited as safety issues, especially for children.

But there was also support for the application. Speaking in favour, a 20-year-old student said previous speakers appeared to represent a similar demographic, describing them as “perhaps middle-aged homeowners who are habituated to an idea of Vancouver that no longer exists.”

At her age, she said, she sees the impact of the housing crisis.

“It’s so disheartening to speak to friends I have grown up with and to hear them speak about how they plan to leave the city post-graduation due to housing issues and concerns,” she said.

“So the responsibility falls on the city to rectify this issue. It is entirely counter-intuitive to curb pilot projects such as these, which would set out to benefit a demographic that has been dealt an unfortunate hand when it comes to the future of this city.”

The majority of councillors gave the rezoning application their stamp of approval.

Green Coun. Adriane Carr said she would have preferred if there were more moderate-income units but she said 13 is “a step in the right direction.”

Hardwick, however, said six spot rezonings in recent years, with no expanded community amenities, has put too much pressure on the neighbourhood.

“In balance, I cannot justify 13 affordable rentals, with quotes around affordable, to the detriment of the larger neighbourhood. For that reason, I won’t be supporting it,” she said.

While countering that there were four, not six, spot rezonings over five years, OneCity’s Christine Boyle nonetheless acknowledged the neighbourhood’s feeling that it’s “bearing more than the equitable brunt of spot rezonings across the city.”

“It certainly seems to me that we’re doing more of these types of rezonings in East Vancouver,” Boyle said. “I’d like to not see less [on the East Side] but I’d like to see more of these types of projects spread across the city, and particularly across the West Side.”

She said buildings similar to the Stainsbury one are what’s needed in Vancouver.

“I really feel like this type of housing — five or six storeys with a mix of moderate-income units — is the type of project that we need across the city, and I’d like to see a lot more of, if we don’t want 60-storey towers here and there. This is the type of missing middle housing that I think really strengthens communities and gives people a place to live.”

Council finished the speakers’ list for a proposed 14-storey MIRHPP building at 3600 East Hastings, but has yet to make a decision. A public hearing for another 14-storey building by the same developer, envisioned for 3680 East Hastings, has yet to begin.

Both of those projects will be dealt with when the public hearing reconvenes at 3 p.m., Jan. 28.

The location for the new building.
The location for the new building.

noconnor@vancourier.com

@naoibh

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