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Councillors heed to residents, shrink social housing complex

Vancouver city councillors heeded the call of concerned Mount Pleasant residents at a council meeting Tuesday afternoon to scale back a contentious East Broadway social housing complex to eight storeys.

“Having heard all comments, we should make some adjustments to what was originally proposed,” said Councillor Raymond Louie, who brought forward the motion at Tuesday’s meeting. “The decision centres around the need for social housing … balancing that service with the will of the community.”

Council voted unanimously to axe three floors from the proposed complex’s height of 11 floors after considering feedback from three public hearings ending July 6. Vancouver’s planning department is now charged with reconfiguring the complex, set to hold 103 social housing units, 24 market rental units, ground floor retail space and the Broadway Youth Resource Centre — who will provide support to youth living in the building.

But Councillor David Cadman expressed apprehension that the 24 market rental units will make the cut in the eight-floor East Broadway complex.

“Quite frankly, I don’t think the resources are there for this and certainly, there was no indication from the province that they were prepared to fund this,” he told The Tyee.

“We made the compromise on the 24 rental units,” he added. “But I think we’re all a little bit dubious about that happening because the province really doesn’t have much in the way of programs for market rental.”

City staffers noted at Tuesday’s meeting that funding partner B.C. Housing has not said whether it will contribute funds to the 24 rental units planned for the East Broadway complex.

And there will be no market rental units with a funding promise, Councillor Louie said.

“All this discussion as to whether there will be these extra units is a moot point,” he said. “Until B.C. Housings says they will give us the money, we’re really talking about what-ifs rather than realities.”

For Councillor Ellen Woodsworth, who initially voted against the plan to reduce the eight-storey design but later rescinded, the potential loss of 24 market rental units is troubling for Vancouver.

“I think that the community desperately needs rental housing,” she said. “We heard that the province is supportive of the 24 units but they haven’t put the money down on the table.”

“I think that we really should have said that we want to proceed with the 11 storeys in order to get the 24 units of rental housing … I don’t like the design,” she added.

The potential loss of units also concerns David Eddy, executive director of Vancouver Native Housing Society – a registered charity slated to operate the 103 suites for individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“I’m of mixed emotion,” he said of council’s decision Tuesday. “I’m not devastated that we lost the three storeys and if we get the units that we want and are able to incorporate the low-end of market rental, then that’s something that everybody wanted.”

“But… there’s a dearth of affordable rental housing in the city,” Eddy added. “The city is trying to create more affordable rental through their STIR program. Council’s decision seemed to be contradictory but politicians make political decisions and we understand that.”

Niamh Scallan is completing a practicum at The Tyee

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