Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation’s rezoning application to redevelop Heather Place goes before public hearing April 15.
A city staff report recommends the application be approved subject to conditions.
The proposal envisions 230 mixed-income rental units in three buildings at the site at 706-774 West 14th Ave. — a five, a seven and a 10-storey building — as well as a common amenity space and underground parking. The development would replace a 86-unit mixed income townhouse complex built in 1983.
Don Littleford, director of housing for Metro Vancouver, whose duties include managing MVHC, says the project represents “sensible” density for the area and he believes it will fit into the neighbourhood and provide much-needed mixed-income rental housing. He noted there is a board resolution ensuring the property is held in perpetuity for mixed-income rental.
“The city itself, the elected representatives, make decisions about what they feel is appropriate for various neighbourhoods with their staff’s recommendation,” he said. “I feel we’ve been in a long process with the city. We have modified our plans over time to make sure we met with their requirements. I feel we’ve done a very good job of meeting those requirements.”
If the project is approved, the townhouse tenants will be given first right of refusal to return to the development after it’s built.
Natthan Crompton, speaking on behalf of the group Save Heather Place, which includes housing activists and academics, said it’s not taking a position on redevelopment versus renovation of the property, but its analysis suggests renovating the units is financially viable.
He said the group is concerned all of the affordable housing units won’t be replaced.
“Our concerns are two-fold. We’re saying in general the one-for-one replacement [issue] is important, but even with the middle range units, the way
Metro Vancouver is doing the one-for-one replacement is really problematic. It’s not replacing affordability for the units, it’s making expensive units, but then saying tenants can come back and apply for a special rent subsidy.”
Crompton said the public hearing is an opportunity to call attention to the affordable housing crisis in Vancouver.
“In terms of making our argument, I feel we’re on firm ground. I also feel it’s good timing that some really powerful voices, including academics at UBC and some others have come together. But at the same time, I feel concerned that these public hearings really haven’t, in the recent past, been a place to explore public concerns and public arguments. They’re more sites for rubber-stamping. So we’re seeing the public hearing more as a place for getting publicity and drawing attention to the affordable housing crisis that’s affecting not just Heather Place, but the whole city.”
A group called the VGH Neighbourhood Association also has concerns about the project.
On its website it argues the proposed buildings “are not consistent with the neighbourhood and are not wanted by local residents” and cites other concerns ranging from shade to traffic. A spokesperson could not be reached by the Courier’s print deadline.