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Little Mountain project years behind schedule

Nearly four years after residents of the citys oldest social housing complex learned theyd be ousted to make way for redevelopment, progress at the Little Mountain Housing site appears to have stalled.
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Nearly four years after residents of the citys oldest social housing complex learned theyd be ousted to make way for redevelopment, progress at the Little Mountain Housing site appears to have stalled.

Ingrid Steenhuisen, one of the last remaining tenants at the social housing site near Main Street and 33rd Avenue, said when BC Housing began moving people out of the development in April 2007, tenants were originally told they could return by summer 2010. Not only did that not happen, but more than a year after most remaining tenants were evicted and their homes demolished, Steenhuisen said stakeholders have yet to even see a development proposal.

Were in the middle of a consultation process that started in December 2009... and were still waiting to have all of the details, she said. Steenhuisen added the delay is particularly irksome given that many of the nearly 800 former tenants on the site, built in 1954, could still be living there.

Little Mountain residents fought a protracted battle against BC Housing and developer Holborn Properties following announcement of the redevelopment.

They had pushed for phased construction and onsite relocation, or at least permission to remain in their homes until the project was closer to breaking ground.

But last November, most of the remaining tenants were evicted from their units, which, though aging, were structurally sound. All but one of the buildings housing 224 units on the site have since been demolished.

For the past year, Steenhuisen and the handful of other tenants in the remaining structure have been living on what is effectively a vacant lot on prime land in the heart of Vancouver.

Steenhuisen said the 2009 evictions made absolutely no sense given the lengthy timeline for the project and the scarcity of affordable housing in Vancouver.

There has been a loss of revenue on this site since 2007 because the buildings were structurally sound, they were first-growth timbre, theyd had new roofs put on in the past decade and they didnt leak, she said.

Steenhuisen added so far, shes had no luck unearthing whats causing the delay. That depends on who you ask, she said, noting shes been bounced back and forth between the agencies involved: the City of Vancouver, BC Housing and developer Holborn Properties. The city says that they are waiting for information from the developers and the developers and their consultants are saying that they are waiting on information from BC Housing.

Jim Green, a consultant with Holborn acknowledged the redevelopment process was about two years behind schedule when he came on board about one year ago.

He said the developer has been conducting extensive community consultation and has held 32 stakeholder meetings, but cant officially proceed until the city calls a meeting of the projects advisory council.

We havent had a meeting of the advisory council in four months, Green said. Im not in a position to comment why thats so, he added.

Repeated calls to the City of Vancouver were not returned by deadline.

Green also said he sympathized with Steenhuisens questions over why tenants were evicted at such an early stage in the development process.

I think thats a legitimate question and I think that would have to go to Shane Ramsey of BC Housing, said Green.

BC Housing spokesperson Fergus McCann said the direction to demolish the buildings in 2009 came from the developer.

Its my understanding that was a condition of the contract with Holborn Properties, he said.

reporter@westender.com