A 353-unit development on East Hastings Street was given the green light by Vancouver city council today (October 30), as the majority of councillors voted to approve a rezoning for the site.
The vote followed a public hearing earlier this month on the development proposed by the Wall Financial Corporation and GBL Architects at 955 East Hastings.
Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie moved a motion adding some further conditions to the rezoning, which he said were based on points raised by speakers during the public hearing.
Those additional conditions include: that the applicant design some common areas where all the residents of the development can interact, and that the applicant and staff “work to maximize the welfare-rate component of the housing units”.
“It was a request from council, a majority, that asked the applicant and staff to work together to maximize the number of welfare-rate component housing units within that development,” Louie told the Straight by phone following the debate. “We are very interested in that. How that comes about, it’s unknown at this point in time.”
Council heard from both opponents and supporters of the Downtown Eastside development during the two-night public hearing. Some supporters said the project will provide needed housing to low-income families and seniors living in the area, while opponents called for a higher number of welfare-rate housing units to be included in the project, and raised concerns about the potential impacts of a major development on existing SRO buildings and low-income housing stock in the area.
The building will include 282 condo units and 70 city-owned units, which will be managed by a nonprofit operator. A third of those units will be rented at welfare rates, a third will be subsidized, and a third will go for low-end market rents.
Councillors Adriane Carr, George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball voted against the rezoning. Affleck criticized the process and acknowledged some of the community concerns around the proposal, and Carr called for the motion to be deferred until the Local Area Planning process for the Downtown Eastside is complete.
“I’m very concerned that we are undermining the Local Area Planning process and grassroots democracy,” Carr said in council chambers.
“I am for process, and I think we let the neighbourhood down on the process here,” added Affleck.
Mayor Gregor Robertson said the city is “forced to be creative” in order to generate new low-income housing without the degree of senior government support that’s needed.
“It would be nice if all of those were available at welfare rates, but certainly they will be available to people on lower incomes,” he said in council chambers. “That’s a lot better than nothing.”
The development, located across from Ray-cam Co-operative Centre, also includes over 64,000 square feet of commercial and light-industrial space.
The other conditions for the applicant approved by council today include coordinating with Ray-cam to prioritize the seniors and families they are working with for affordable housing within the development, and designing the development to accommodate a potential neighbourhood grocery store.
The project is still required to go before the city's Development Permit Board.