As a long-time advocate of spot rezoning to create affordable rental housing, I find it extremely frustrating to hear NIMBY-ish rants and fear-mongering from some local residents [Straight Talk, April 15-22]. From some quarters, it sounds a little like social cleansing, as happened in the Downtown South and Yaletown in the 1990s. I guess with the city centre pretty much built out, it was only a matter of time before the West End succumbed to gentrification pressures.
Note that there was no outcry when the YMCA and First Baptist Church proposed their 42-storey condominium tower, which overshadows the Nelson Park area and has units selling for up to $6 million.
The West End is one of the last large rental areas in Vancouver. There has been a rapid erosion in affordability due to a revised provincial Residential Tenancy Act and a slower erosion of stock through conversions. Vancouver city council has devised a program to create some affordable market rentals, and it is hoped that they will alleviate some of the pressure on existing, older rental stock.
The proposed buildings do not require any demolition of existing housing and fit into the West End’s building mix. A community plan would be nice, but it would freeze any development for years while it wound its way through processes. Meanwhile, we would lose more housing and affordability, and West Enders would be forced out to the suburbs. In the five to 10 years it would take, we would likely have another council, and we’d probably have luxury condominiums instead of rental housing.
If council doesn’t provide incentives for affordable market rentals, no one will. The provincial Liberals cancelled B.C. Housing’s low-end-of-market program in 2001, and the federal Liberals cancelled theirs in 1994. Don’t hold your breath for the current provincial or federal governments to provide a mixed-income rental-housing program until hell freezes over.
> Blair Petrie / Vancouver