BC Housing has submitted rezoning applications for two housing projects in Vancouver for homeless people and is preparing a third as part of its strategy to get people off the streets and into homes.
The three proposals are part of a five-building strategy by the provincial government’s housing branch to build 424 homes for people who are without a home and others who are at risk of homelessness.
So far, Vancouver council has approved two of the five buildings — one last month in the 1400-block East King Edward Avenue with 109 homes and one this past Tuesday at Eighth Avenue and Arbutus Street, with 129 homes.
The East King Edward Avenue project was unanimously approved by council after one night of a public hearing. Correspondence tabulated by the city clerk’s office showed 52 people in support and 24 against.
The Arbutus Street project saw close to 300 people register to speak, most of whom were opposed to the 13-storey tower. The public hearing lasted several days and nights. A petition with 1,422 signatures was included in the correspondence against the project, while 542 wrote in support.
Whether that level of opposition or support will occur with BC Housing’s three other projects remains to be seen, but some councillors said at Tuesday’s meeting that communication between residents and the city has to improve.
Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung, who voted against the Kitsilano proposal, said she heard concerns from residents about not accessing information they needed to fully understand the scope of the project.
“I'm disappointed that I didn't hear acknowledgement of what I think are pretty genuine concerns,” she said in her closing remarks.
“When I hear things [from city staff] like, ‘Well, we're not aware of any specific issues with respect to some of the challenges in the neighbourhood around the site,’ that's not the case. That's not true. We hear that, and if we don't daylight those concerns, we can't mitigate them.”
Of the three remaining BC Housing proposals, the housing agency’s timeline shows rezoning applications for 2518-2538 South Grandview Hwy. and 1925 Southeast Marine Dr. are expected to go before council in late 2022, or early 2023.
A rezoning application for a 50-unit building at 2390 Renfrew St. has yet to be submitted.
The timeline means the current council will not decide on whether the projects get approved, although Mayor Kennedy Stewart and the 10 councillors are all seeking re-election, including Coun. Colleen Hardwick, who is Team for a Livable Vancouver’s mayoral candidate.
BC Housing says all three proposals will be for adults, seniors and people with disabilities who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness. People in the local community will get priority when and if the housing is approved and built.
The proposal on South Grandview Highway calls for 64 homes and will be managed by Community Builders. Another 72 homes are proposed for the Southeast Marine Drive project, which will be managed by The Kettle Society.
All units will be in the form of studio apartments with a private bathroom and kitchen. At least five per cent of the homes will be fully accessible, according to BC Housing, whose CEO Shayne Ramsay spoke to council Tuesday about the need for more social housing.
“Doing nothing is not an option for BC Housing,” Ramsay said. “Council wanted all three levels of government to work together on solutions for this crisis, which we are doing here with this proposal and the [four other projects]. We are facing a homeless crisis in Vancouver, and we need new supportive and affordable housing more than ever.”
BC Housing has agreed to pay for construction and operating costs of the projects, with the city providing the land. BC Housing has not released the total cost of the five projects, but Ramsay told council the Kitsilano building will cost $64 million.