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Demolition OK'ed for Little Mountain; Vancouver fast-tracks other sites

VANCOUVER --- Five social housing projects are being fast-tracked in the wake of a new agreement between BC Housing and the City of Vancouver, including a contentious proposal to redevelop the ageing Little Mountain Housing complex on the eastern side of Queen Elizabeth Park.

“We are proceeding with rezoning at Little Mountain and we have a plan in place to accommodate the current residents on the site,” Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said Monday.

Residents who fought for years to stay at the ageing Little Mountain complex will not be evicted when bulldozers demolish the project. Instead, the 25 to 30 remaining residents will be moved to one building as the site is redeveloped.

The iconic 224-unit housing complex was built in 1954 and once provided low-income homes for nearly 700 people. But the site has fallen into disrepair in recent years. Only ten households remain.

BC Housing has long planned to bulldoze the aging buildings and redevelop the entire complex, located just west of Main street on 33rd Ave. The city has expressed concerns in the face of vocal community protests and a homeless crisis on Vancouver streets.

Housing Minister Rich Coleman has made it clear that funding for new social housing at four other city sites would depend on a Little Mountain agreement, COPE councillor Ellen Wordsworth said.

Demolition permits were expected to be issued today, and the city promises to expedite rezoning for a mixed use development that will include social housing. As part of today’s deal, construction is slated to begin on four new social housing buildings later this fall.

“Redeveloping the oldest social housing site in the province will provide additional social housing for Vancouver, creating hundreds more safe, affordable units for those in greatest need,” Coleman said in a release.

The city will start construction on the four housing buildings that rely on provincial funds this fall:

188 East 1st Avenue (Lookout emergency aid society): 129 units

525 Abbott Street (Atira): 108 units

377 West Pender Street (Coast Foundation): 96 units

3595 West 17th Avenue (Coast foundation society & yaffa HS & St George's Place HS): 51 units

Woodsworth said it was “wonderful” to reach an agreement, but worried about short term housing losses when thousands of people lack homes. “We might not see anything built on this site for quite a few years, she said. “And that’s my concern. We’ve got a crisis with homeless people.”

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee.

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