West Vancouver's first major rental housing project in 40 years upsets neighboursA proposal to build what would be West Vancouver’s first significant rental housing development in 40 years is getting a rough ride from some neighbours, who fear the loss of views and increasing traffic.
But proponents of the 41 infill rental units, as well as the District of West Vancouver, say the proposal would help ease the rental crunch and encourage the development of more housing options.
The project is being proposed by Hollyburn Properties, which owns and manages nearly three dozen rental-only buildings in Metro Vancouver. It wants to build two three- and four-storey buildings on land it owns surrounding its 16-storey Hollyburn Gardens project at 195 21st St.
But the project has encountered stiff opposition from adjacent residents who say it will disrupt the neighbourhood’s stability.
“There is no one in my building who wants this,” said Ingrid Hagerlund, a senior who lives in the 46-unit Crescent strata-condo building next to the site. “My neighbours will be eye to eye with people in the new building.”
Hollyburn Properties first proposed the project more than five years ago, according to developer Michael Geller, who is steering the project. It was delayed for a while to allow the district to develop a new housing policy statement to address the city’s lack of new rental housing. On Wednesday night the proponent held the third of three public information sessions. A public hearing is set for Nov. 28.
Jim Bailey, the district’s director of planning, said staff are recommending the project go ahead because it offers new rental housing. But he admits that some people don’t like it.
“I think it is fair to say there will be significant community concern and pushback on this, insofar as it affects things like views and even questions about parking and traffic,” Bailey said.
West Vancouver has only added 20 units of purpose-built rental since the 1970s, Bailey said. They were built into two developments in 2006 and 2007.
Bailey said the city council earlier this year adopted a staff recommendation to explore ways to encourage more housing affordability, from offering bonus densities for purpose-built rental, to infill on existing sites.
Hagerlund, who bought her condo about five years ago, does not believe the opponents will win.
“The councillors have made up their minds. They come here and talk to us and pat all these little old people on the head and that’s all they do,” she said.
Bailey said that in addition to scaling down the project from 49 units to 41 and increasing the mix to include two- and three-bedroom apartments, the proponents have also offered a donation of just over $1 million to the city’s new housing affordability fund.
The money, along with some funds from a Horseshoe Bay development by another developer, may allow the district to build more affordable rental housing on land it owns, he said. It may also be designated for a nearby park.
Geller acknowledged the Hollyburn proposal won’t significantly move the dial when it comes to affordable rental in West Vancouver.
“I would suggest that the more supply you can create, certainly over time the greater the affordability,” he said.
Peter Lambur, an architect who was just elected to council in a byelection on the weekend, said West Vancouver needs to bring in neighbourhood area plans that contemplate better housing options. He campaigned on a platform of supporting spot rezoning, but said on Wednesday he would support the Hollyburn Gardens proposal if, in return, the city began to put in place neighbourhood area plans.
The project has the support of a group of affordable housing activists in Vancouver who believe West Vancouver has to make more of an effort to encourage rental housing.
“In West Vancouver if you want to go and spend $5 million in the hills, no problem, no public hearing, go ahead and do it. If you want to build a rental building, there is a public hearing, there is a lot of opposition but this is something that will house a lot more people,” said Daniel Oleksiuk, a founding member of Abundant Housing Vancouver.
“The vast majority of a lot of municipalities, especially West Vancouver, have been set aside so only the very rich can live there.”