Vancouver transit advocate to lose home in Cambie rezoning as councillor says city creating “elite neighbourhood”

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      A planned development in the Cambie Corridor that may displace a Vancouver transit advocate and his neighbours brings to mind a motion unanimously approved by council last year.

      Transit activist Nathan Davidowicz could lose his rental home, and will likely find it almost impossible to find a comparable one in the area.

      This is why the motion successfully brought forward by councillor Jean Swanson in 2020 becomes relevant.

      It’s titled “Working for More Housing Affordability in the Cambie Corridor”.

      The motion notes that one of the supposed aims of the Cambie Corridor Plan is to meet “objectives for affordable housing”.

      However, the plan appears to be failing.

      The Swanson motion was approved on May 13, 2020, and it referenced a public benefits summary included by city staff on a rezoning application.

      The summary stated that a total of 10,740 housing units are complete, under construction, approved or in review in the Cambie Corridor.

      Moreover, 71 percent of these are condos serving households with incomes of mostly over $100,000 per year.

      Also, 20 percent are purpose-built rental serving households with annual incomes of mainly over $60,000.

      Notably, the summary indicated that only nine percent or 947 units are social housing.

      However, because of the City of Vancouver’s controversial definition of social housing, not all of these are really social housing.

      The city defines social housing as any entire housing development wherein only 30 percent of the units are dedicated to households who can rent at or below market rates. The rest of the 70 percent of the homes can be rented for rates that can go as high as the market can bear.

      Hence, of the 947 units of social housing in the Cambie Corridor, only 30 percent or 284 units are for families earning about $50,000 to $80,000 a year.

      That means that only about three percent of the 10,740 new housing units in the Cambie Corridor are somewhat affordable.

      This, as the Swanson motion noted, even though 50 percent of renters and 26 percent of owners in Vancouver have earnings below the so-called Housing Income Limits. These HILs are set by the province as the minimum amount to afford market-rate rents.

      Council approved the motion, and directed staff to report back with “recommendations for aligning the affordability targets to the real incomes of people in Vancouver” in the Cambie Corridor.

      It has been over a year since council unanimously endorsed the motion.

      Swanson noted that city planners have yet to return to council with a report.

      “It’s been frustrating,” Swanson told the Straight in a phone interview.

      Swanson related that everytime she asks staff why anything hasn’t happen, the response she gets is that it will part of the Vancouver Plan. That’s the citywide planning program currently under development.

      “And then I say, ‘I hope we don’t rezone the whole area before the Vancouver Plan comes’,” the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) councillor said.

      Meanwhile, rezonings continue in the Cambie Corridor.

      One of these is an application to rezone 5327-5477 Oak Street and 1006-1008 West 37th Avenue for townhouses.

      The development is a joint venture between the Grosvenor Group and Citimark Properties.

      The site is located to the south of the VanDusen Botanical Garden, and currently home to seven detached and duplex homes.

      One of the residents in the site is Davidowicz. The public transit advocate lives with his sister as renters at one of the residences.

      Davidowicz provided the Straight a copy of a letter signed by Edwin Leung on behalf of Grosvenor and Citimark, informing tenants about the plan.

      Tenants in the other addresses covered by the rezoning application presumably received the same letter.

      The developers are promising to compensate and assist them with a relocation plan.

      In the letter, Leung indicated that the rezoning and development permit process will take around two years before construction starts.

      The Straight sought an interview with a representative of the developers, but no one was made available before this post.

      Rendering at the City of Vancouver’s online rezoning site for the planned development at 5327-5477 Oak Street and 1006-1008 West 37th Avenue.

      Meantime, Davidowicz said that renters will be displaced.

      “You’ll never be able to come back,” Davidowicz told the Straight in a phone interview.

      Vancouver city council routinely approves rezoning applications townhouses in the Cambie Corridor.

      “If they say ‘no’ to townhouses and ‘yes’ to apartments, then we’ll be able to come back and live in the area. We all like the area. It’s a nice area by VanDusen gardens,” Davidowicz said.

      Davidowicz argued that Oak Street is a major road, where rental apartments should be built in order to provide more housing.

      “This area should be zoned for apartments. It’s a major street. It should not be for townhouses,” Davidowicz said.

      The transit advocate acknowledged that the compensation and tenant relocation assistance to be provided by the developers are “good to have”.

      “But the likelihood of us finding any comparable space in Vancouver is very slim. Even on the east side, the rents are very high. I know somebody who’s paying $1,800 for one bedroom,” Davidowicz said.

      Meantime, Swanson said that the city needs to ensure housing affordability in the Cambie Corridor.

      That was why she brought forward her 2020 motion.

      “We’re making an elite neighbourhood, and I don’t think that’s what people in the city want,” Swanson said.