Public Hearing – April 15th, 2021 In A Sign Of The Times Vancouver Debates Running Through Red Tape With Social Sixers

Public Hearing – April 15th, 2021
Update: As city council only managed to finish the first three items, the public hearing will resume on April 20th at 6pm to hear from anyone who wishes to speak to Item #4.

At first glance, this public hearing might seem like a game changer for efforts to create affordable housing in Vancouver. In reality, Item #4, a city-initiated proposal to allow social housing projects to reach six floors without needing an onerous rezoning review process is really more of a baby step. That might even be too generous, as this will only apply to the multi-family zoned areas of neighbourhoods where four floor strata and market rental buildings are already permitted.

Which is why Hannah and I debated whether to combine this week’s meetings into one post, as we (accurately) predicted Tuesday would be a quiet night. However, in the spirit of keeping things streamlined, and to provide greater clarity, we chose to break them up. That said, the rest of this evening can be easily summed up, like Item #1 which simply permits more diverse retail, office, and cultural uses at the nearly completed Burrard Place Offices.

Conversely, it’s likely the townhomes in Item #2 will face some opposition, as a similar proposal on these blocks near Children’s Hospital previously drew the ire of a nearby single-family homeowner (pg 2-4). Others may question if these missing middle homes should even merit this level of scrutiny, yet it isn’t the smallest subject on this evening’s agenda. That title goes to Item #3, as it simply seeks to allow a few larger signs at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Backlash Expectations

Item #4 – Amendments to Increase Social Housing in RM-4 and RM-3A ZonesLow
There’s not many who oppose lowering barriers to affordability, but there are some.

Item #4 – Amendments to Increase Social Housing in RM-4 and RM-3A Zones – Low

What is it?:
This city-initiated motion will remove the requirement for projects offering 100% social housing to undergo a rezoning if they’re seeking six floors or less, in areas already zoned for multi-family housing. That said, they will still have to file a development application, and pass that review process.

Where is it?:
As shown above, this applies to RM-4 and RM-3A zoned properties. In other words, mostly in parts of the apartment districts in the Grandview Woodland, Kitsilano, Marpole, Mount Pleasant, and a portion of Fairview. A more detailed, interactive map can be found here.

What will it contribute to the community?:
Instead of wasting taxpayer money on bureaucratic processes, this ensures it will contribute to actually providing new homes. Ultimately, city staff believe this will lead to more social housing being created (pg 14).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
One of the downsides about policy updates is that it’s hard to keep track of what language may have been altered throughout the process. That said, you can view how public feedback has informed its evolution here on pages 11 – 13.

What was the open house like?:
There were actually four, with one held for each neighbourhood this applies to (Grandview Woodlands, Kitsilano, Marpole and Mount Pleasant). When combined, about ~80 people attend those virtual events, and roughly 80% expressed support for this direction (pg 37-38), which mirrors the results of a Talk Vancouver survey that received over 2,300 responses (pg 41 & 51).

What are its strengths?:
Getting rid of unnecessary red-tape is a good idea at the best of times, and is even more appropriate when it comes to this badly needed type of housing. All safety, environmental, and livability matters will continue to be addressed as part of the development application process.

What are its weaknesses?:
This certainly isn’t something that can be criticized for its ambition. Not only is it limited to a small area of our city, it fails to consider space for social enterprises or retail uses, and ignores that the building bylaw now allows for mass timber construction of up to 12 floor buildings.

What is the opposition like?:
There are those, apparently particularly in Kitsilano, who feel that six floors is too tall, and provides too much housing for their neighbourhood, but claim they would be fine if it was located elsewhere (pg 17 – 18).

Want to speak up?:
You can submit your comments using this online form. or register to speak by phone here.

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