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Vancouver filmmaker sees lesson in Little Mountain

David Vaisbord raising money to complete documentary
David Vaisbord
Documentary filmmaker David Vaisbord focuses on community’s success of seeing a seniors’ building constructed first at Little Mountain. Photo: Dan Toulgoet

David Vaisbord says his Little Mountain housing documentary will end with seniors moving into the first 53 units of low-income seniors housing to be constructed on the property once home to a longstanding social housing complex.

The Ministry Responsible for Housing expects seniors to move into the new building this fall, according to an April press release.

The four families that remained at the more than 50-year-old social housing site at Main and Ontario streets, 33rd and 37th avenues learned four days before they were to fight their eviction at the Residential Tenancy Branch in October 2012 that they could stay.

The B.C. government, City of Vancouver and developer Holborn Properties had signed an agreement to construct one social housing building before rezoning was completed.

“It’s about the community struggle and the residents’ struggle and the fact that they won a major battle,” Vaisbord said. “Much was lost, but the big takeaway is they won and my film will go into great detail showing exactly how they won. It’s an important piece of knowledge to put forward… You learn right here in Canada under the current conditions of neoliberalism and privatization of social housing lands and the disappearance of co-ops, all that kind of stuff.”

Vaisbord has raised more than $10,000 toward his goal of $50,000 to fund the making of the Little Mountain documentary through an Indiegogo campaign that ends June 23.

While he recognizes community activism and fundraising successes, Vaisbord remains concerned about the redevelopment.

Holborn development manager Phil Scott says Holborn submitted a rezoning application to the city in February.

Vaisbord said the application didn’t include amenities and improvements sought by area residents.

Scott disagrees.

The Courier asked to speak to the city’s Little Mountain project planner Ben Johnson, but instead received an email from the city’s communications department that states: “Further work is needed on the strategy for the delivery of the public amenities required, including the neighbourhood house, childcare and park improvements. The city is working with Holborn to develop this strategy.”

The city’s Little Mountain project web pages don’t include the rezoning application and Scott doesn’t believe the application has been posted with other rezoning proposals on the city’s website.

Little Mountain residents learned in 2007 the site would be redeveloped. The B.C. government, City of Vancouver and Holborn Properties have worked together since 2008 to redevelop the 6.15-hectare site that borders Queen Elizabeth Park. Most families relocated from Little Mountain by September 2009.

The original 224 social housing units are to eventually be replaced with 234 social housing apartments. Former residents will be given the first opportunity to occupy the new units.

A city representative said in an email Wednesday that “getting the former tenants back into affordable housing will happen at the earliest phases of the project.”

Policy for the development allows four- to eight-storey buildings along Main Street, two 12-storey structures and buildings of four to 10 storeys elsewhere. The city said the rezoning application adheres to those guidelines.

The B.C. housing ministry announced last July the province would receive approximately $300 million in sales money and non-market housing over the development period. The province is to invest net proceeds from the sale of the site into social housing throughout the province, with half of those proceeds targeted for Vancouver.

Proceeds are being invested in 2,100 new supporting housing units around the province, 1,500 of which are in Vancouver, including at 14 city-owned sites. Nine of the 14 new supportive housing developments have opened. Four more sites will open this year. The last building is anticipated to be complete in 2016.

Redeveloping Little Mountain is expected to take a decade.

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