Ingrid Steenhuisen says hearing the news that she and the other last remaining residents of the Little Mountain redevelopment site in Vancouver won't be evicted made her happy.
“There’s so many people who were saying that that wasn’t possible,” Steenhuisen told the Straight in a phone interview. “There’s always so many naysayers, and I was just trying to remain as positive as possible, for my mum and I, but also for the other families here, and so I’m happy.”
The B.C. government, the City of Vancouver, and Holborn Properties signed an agreement permitting up to 50 social-housing units to be constructed at Little Mountain ahead of the completion of the rezoning process for the site, it was announced today (October 25).
Four households had received eviction notices in July, ordering them to vacate their homes by September 30 so the final demolition and environmental clean-up of the site could go ahead. The other homes had been demolished in 2009.
Steenhuisen is one of the residents who will now be allowed to stay in their homes until new housing is built.
The tenant grew up at Little Mountain and returned in 2003 to care for her mother, who moved to the site in 1957. Steenhuisen said she herself faces “multiple challenges” with her disability, which have been exacerbated by stress over recent weeks.
“It was making it very difficult for me over the last couple of months…to know that I have time now, is very helpful,” she said.
According to today's news release issued by the province and the city, residents who were forced to move off the site, so their homes could be demolished and the site redeveloped, will also get first crack at the new units.
"Today's agreement honours our commitment to include social housing units in the first phase of redevelopment at Little Mountain," Rich Coleman, B.C.'s minister responsible for housing, said in the release. "Together with our partners, we will soon see the benefits of this socially inclusive and affordable housing community within Riley Park."
Plans call for a mixed-use development at the Little Mountain site, between 33rd and 37th avenues and Main and Ontario streets. The 224 social-housing units that were on the site are to be replaced with 234 units.
Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang said the deal with B.C. Housing and the developer has been in the works “for some time”.
“We’ve always maintained at the city that we need to find a way of accommodating these folks,” Jang told the Straight by phone. “It’s kind of inhuman to uproot them, right? The other tenants...they took the package three years ago, they had their choice."
The remaining tenants also include an elderly couple who are both blind and have lived in the social housing at the site since 1974.
“We wanted to make sure they had a safe place to live, in the meantime, but also that they would be able to stay on site in the neighbourhood,” Jang said.
The city plans to subdivide the lot and expedite permits to allow construction of the first 50 social-housing units to go ahead. The remaining development will still be subject to a rezoning process.
Jang expects the initial 50 units to be constructed within a year.