December 9th, 2021 Public Hearing – Forbidden Renters Find A Way Forward, But Will City Council Bounce Forty Million Dollar Homes?

Public Hearing – December 9th, 2021
With the budget set, normally this public hearing would help city council ease into a winter break that lasts until the middle of January. However this year is different, as there’s plenty of unfinished business left to settle, including the fate of the Secured Rental Policy. Ironically, that protocol was the only thing that saved this night’s first rejection, after it was realized the Kensington Cedar Cottage Community Vision doesn’t permit charities to build rental housing on land they’ve leased.

Which would have thrilled some of its neighbours who fear this six floor building mix of market and non-market rental homes will endanger local children (pg 40). Still, as they prefer four floors of strata housing, Hannah and I can only imagine how they would react to Item #2, which has been crafted by the architectural firm responsible for the world tallest building. At 43 floors, this mix of strata and rental housing is far less ambitious, but no less grand.

That’s evident as it will contribute nearly $40 million in fees to fund amenities in the neighbourhood. At nearly $200k per strata home, it puts the recent $14 a month property tax increase for the average detached home into perspective. Which is what the night ends on, as Item #3 will preserve Kerrisdale’s C.S. Arnold Residence as an officially registered heritage home. Yet there’s no need to conserve your thoughts, as it’s always better to make sure they’re heard.

Backlash Expectations

Item #1 – 5590 Victoria Dr. – Low
Neighbours fear this will bring more bad mannered renters to their community

Item #2 – 1640-1650 Alberni St. – Very Low
The design is unique, but there’s several similar proposals along this block

The First Item – 5590 Victoria Dr. – Low

What is it?:
It looks like a typical six floor rental building with retail services on the ground level, and rental housing above. However, 30% of these 54 homes will be rented at below-market rates.

Where is it?:
Here, on a parcel of land leased by a non-profit developer, but owned by Vancity Credit Union, who’s branch will return in the new building. It’s across the road from Victoria Square Shopping Centre, and a block north of a R4 Rapid Bus stop.

What will it contribute to the community?:
Securing 30% of these rental homes at rates no more than 30% of the Housing Income Limits rate is a benefit considered to be the cash equivalent of ~$700,000. Additionally, ~$530,000 will be paid in fees that go towards upgrading city infrastructure, like sewers and parks.

What has changed since it was first proposed?:
After it was filed, someone apparently realized the Community Vision doesn’t allow for affordable housing if it’s the result of a long-term lease between a charity and a for-profit credit union. However, as the Secured Rental Policy allows virtually the same thing, it just caused a lot of paperwork (pg 5).

What was the open house like?:
You would never know neighbourhood safety was the primary concern of those who attended this virtual event (pg 39), as the only question was about where residents would park, and can be viewed here.

What are its strengths?:
Though we bank with a different institution, we’re sure many will be glad their preferred credit union will be returning here. Aesthetically, the additional rental homes align well with the four floor strata building across the street, and the staggered window placement helps create some visual interest too.

What are its weaknesses?:
The surface parking along the laneway seems like a real dead zone, but is probably a requirement of the credit union. Still, at least a pleasant looking café will occupy the northwest corner on Victoria Drive.

What is the opposition like?:
They’re extremely fearful that those who will rent here will drive up crime, and jeopardize the safety of their children as well as the wider community (pg 40).

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

The Second Item – 1640-1650 Alberni St. – Very Low

What is it?:
Crafted by the same firm who designed the world’s tallest building, this one is limited to 43 floors by the West End Community Plan (pg 50). It offers 198 strata, and 66 rental homes, with ~13 rented at rates 20% lower than the West End’s average rate according to the CMHC.

Where is it?:
Here, between the Whole Foods on Robson Street, and what was once probably the most iconic White Spot in Canada. Fortunately, you can continue to find great food at the nearby Red Accordion.

What will it contribute to the community?:
How does just over $40 million sound? With ~$32.7 million to improve neighbourhood amenities, ~$7.3 million to upgrade city infrastructure, and ~$500k for public art. As the rental homes directly replace those that will be lost, this comes to about ~$200k per strata home (pg 58).

What has changed since it was first proposed?:
As the city now includes the balconies as living space, it’s been technically increased from the pre-application version. There’s also 25 fewer bike parking spaces, and 23 more vehicle stalls (Pg 3), but overall the changes are pretty minor when compared to what the previous owner proposed here in 2016.

What was the open house like?:
As we didn’t learn about it until after it was held, we can’t say how the applicant-led event went. However, the response to the city-led virtual open house was very positive, with 66% in support (pg 49), 33% describing it as a positive addition to our city (pg 50), and just three critical questions which can be viewed here.

What are its strengths?:
Ignoring the $40 million contribution to the neighbourhood, its sky-gardens should help foster a strong internal community. The building itself should fit in well too, considering the other award winning architecture in the area.

What are its weaknesses?:
The Urban Design Panel considered the ground floor to be its Achilles’ heel, which is why city staff are requiring the elimination of one home, and an increase to the outdoor amenity area on this level (pg 22).

What is the opposition like?:
About half of those opposed genuinely hoped that more rental housing could have been included instead. That said, the rest went on to demand a smaller building that could house fewer people (pg 50).

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

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