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Fairview Developing Story: Heather Place plans moving forward

Proposal includes 230 mixed-income rental units in three buildings

A city staff report on a rezoning application by Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation (MVHC) to redevelop Heather Place, an 86-unit mixed-income townhouse complex in Fairview built in the 1983, could go before council sometime this spring.

NSDA Architects filed the application with the City of Vancouver on behalf of MVHC last summer. MVHC owns and operates more than 50 so-called affordable rental sites across the Lower Mainland.

Measuring about two acres, the Heather Place property is located south of Vancouver General Hospital and is bounded by Heather Street on the east, Willow Street on the west, 13th Avenue on the north and 14th Avenue on the south.

Don Littleford, director of housing for Metro Vancouver whose duties include managing MVHC, said part of its mandate is to expand the supply of mixed-income housing across the region.

Its proposal is for 230 mixed-income rental units in three buildings — a five-storey, a seven-storey and a 10-storey one. The proposal also includes a plan for a sports court.

MVHC would build and operate two of the buildings (the five and seven-storey ones), which would house 154 of the suites, while the Cooperative Housing Corporation would “hopefully” build and operate the 10-storey building containing 76 suites.

If a deal with the Cooperative Housing Corporation goes forward, it would lease its share of the land from MVHC.

“So we get a bit of money coming in, which we need,” Littleford said.

The Vancouver Renters Union opposed the redevelopment when MVHC revealed its plans and the union launched a campaign to save Heather Place. The union couldn’t be reached before the Courier’s print deadline.

Littleford told the Courier that many of the current residents’ concerns have been dealt with. If the project is approved, they will be given first right of refusal to return to the development after it’s built.

Those tenants who currently have subsidized rents and pay according to their income will be guaranteed the same rent as long as their family and income situations don’t change.

Remaining tenants who now pay market rent will be guaranteed they will pay no more than 30 per cent of their income on rent. (Once all the existing residents who want to move back in, the rest of the units will go for market rents.)

“So [the agreements] effectively shield anybody from getting what I think the renters union called a “rentoviction,” Littleford said. “That can’t happen because by definition if you’re paying less than 30 per cent of your income on rent, you’re fine.”

He said there are a couple of residents who still aren’t happy because their position is that MVHC should maintain the existing density on the site and fix the buildings, which Littleford estimates would cost about $9 million. He said MVHC won’t be able to satisfy the demands of those residents.

“Other than that, I think everybody else pretty much understands what we’re offering — new construction, a sports court, greater [rental] selection for the city,” Littleford said.

“[The city] is trying to get more rental, but importantly they’re trying to make sure affordable rental is heavily emphasized and private sector developers just can’t afford to do that or won’t do that whereas we will because we’re a non-profit.”