East Hastings housing project brings out critics in Downtown Eastside
A development proposal for a site in East Vancouver is drawing some community opposition as the project goes before a public hearing this week.
As of October 17, 35 people were registered to speak to a proposal to rezone 955 East Hastings Street, when a public hearing continues for a second night at Vancouver City Hall on Thursday (October 18). The site is located across from a B.C. housing development and Ray-cam Co-operative Centre.
The proposal by GBL Architects and the Wall Financial Corporation for a 12-storey mixed-use development includes 282 condo units and 70 social-housing units.
Abi Bond, the city’s assistant director of housing policy, noted that the 70 units will be owned by the city and managed by a nonprofit operator. A third of them will be rented at welfare rates, a third will be subsidized, and a third will go for low-end market rents. According to Bond, this type of proposal reflects a new approach of generating city-owned housing as part of larger developments.
“It’s definitely a new approach that we’re encouraging developers to provide us with what we call turnkey units direct to us, and then we arrange for somebody else to manage them,” she told the Straight by phone.
The proposal has already drawn criticism from some, including members of the Downtown Eastside Local Area Planning Committee. The cochairs of the committee have asked city council to defer their decision on the proposal until the community plan is completed next spring.
“Our big concern is that that ratio [of welfare-rent housing] is very, very low,” cochair Michael Clague said by phone. “It’s not a formula that will address the huge need for welfare-rate housing in the Downtown Eastside.”
Bond noted that when Vancouver city council approved an interim rezoning policy for the Downtown Eastside last spring, it agreed to allow pre-existing proposals to be heard.
Clague said despite that decision, the majority of Downtown Eastside LAPP committee members believe that given the scale of the proposed development, it shouldn't be considered separately from the broader community plan.
“The committee’s concern is that if a major project like this comes along, it can possibly jeopardize the work of the committee in the long run, because this is quite a large project, and it’s one that can set a trend that could influence what follows,” he said.
In his comments to the mayor and council, developer Bruno Wall called the proposal a “unique opportunity to explore how a relatively large-scale development can produce community benefits in a neighbourhood that has seen little change for a number of decades”.
The project is also drawing support from some community groups. Joji Kumagai, the executive director of the Strathcona Business Improvement Association, which is also a member of the LAPP committee, said the group sees the project as helping to fill the housing gap in Strathcona.
The proposal also includes over 64,000 square feet of commercial and light-industrial space.