Vancouver city council to hold public hearing on contentious Chinatown condo project

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      Chinatown community members will be speaking inside and out at the steps of Vancouver city hall during the public hearing of a controversial condo development.

      Council is holding a hearing on Tuesday (May 23) on the application by Beedie (Keefer Street) Holdings Ltd. to build a 12-storey condo building with 106 strata units at 105 Keefer Street and 544 Columbia Street.

      Vancouver city planners have endorsed the proposal, which is being opposed by a number of residents and community advocates.

      According to the Chinatown Concern Group, the development of more condos in the community will drive rents up and displace low-income residents.

      The group also considers the inclusion of 25 units in the project for social housing for seniors as a token gesture.

      It is also unclear whether all the units designated for social housing will be occupied by low-income people.

      In the past, social housing simply meant housing for people who cannot afford to pay market rents.

      The City of Vancouver had changed that to mean that an entire development is social housing if 30 percent of the units will be rented below market rates.

      According to a city staff report endorsing the proposed development, the requirement is for the social housing component of the project to include a minimum of 30 percent of units as affordable to households who cannot pay market rents.

      That means only eight of the 25 units designated as social housing will rented out to people below market rates.

      As the report noted, “Rents will be set for at least 30% (8) of the units geared to households with incomes below the housing income limits, as set out in the current ‘Housing Income Limits’ table published by the British Columbia Housing Management Commission, or equivalent publication.”

      Because all 25 units are deemed social housing units, the report noted that Beedie (Keefer Street) Holdings Ltd. is exempt from paying development cost levies on these homes.

      According to the document, the same units will be purchased from the developer by B.C. Housing, a provincial government agency.

      Staff told council: “The application, if approved, would achieve 25 social housing units, meeting the key objective of providing affordable housing in the community.”

      According to a website created for the project, the social housing “provides the opportunity for the community’s long-time residents to age in place and remain in their neighbourhood”.