Vancouver council supports controversial Kitsilano social housing development

Thirteen-story BC Housing project at Arbutus and 7th Avenue will provide permanent shelter for 129 homeless people

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Vancouver council has approved the rezoning of the second of BC Housing’s five developments in the city, which will create 424 suites for single homeless people.

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Council voted late Tuesday to rezon a city-owned site on Arbutus Street in Kitsilano between 7th and 8th Avenues (next to the planned Arbutus subway station) to allow a 13-story building with 129 social housing units for one person offering mental health care and other supports. The project will be managed by the MPA Society, a long-standing nonprofit with 220 full-time employees.

Each unit will have a kitchen and bathroom and occupants will have security of tenure, said Céline Mauboules, director of housing and homelessness services for the city. She said 99% of the estimated 250 people currently living in tent and tarp structures along Hastings Street would jump at the chance to occupy one of these units.

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Last week, a community group called The Kitsilano Coalition called on the City of Vancouver and BC Housing to reconsider the Arbutus social housing project after then-housing minister David Eby fired the council. administration of BC Housing. They were fired because the agency was found to sometimes hand out multi-million contracts without a rigorous process to ensure the best vendor was chosen.

Some neighbors feared the new development would affect safety in the area, fearing the situation when the 147-unit Marguerite Ford public housing project on the 200 block of West 2nd Avenue opened and generated more than 700 police calls in 18 months. The development is also opposite a primary school.

Com. Colleen Hardwick, a mayoral candidate in the October municipal election, was the strongest advocate for these neighbors and voted against the project. Councilors Melissa De Genova and Sarah Kirby-Yung also opposed the project.

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Hardwick said 75 per cent of the council’s 300 speakers were opposed to the plan, including mental health researcher Dr Julian Somers, retired provincial court judge Tom Gove – who ran the town center community court – and the staff of the nearby Sancta Maria House recovery house. for women.

“Instead of standing up and demanding a better model, the majority of city council accepted the failed model presented by BC Housing as good enough,” Hardwick said.

Com. Adriane Carr – who backed the project – noted that former mayor Gregor Robertson promised to end homelessness by 2015 and that was a false promise with homelessness in the city “worse than ever “.

Com. Lisa Dominato said the community consultation process for the project was flawed, but the MPA Society had a good reputation and would work to create a good mix of tenants.

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The project was supported by the rest of the council and Mayor Kennedy Stewart.

“As more and more neighbors are pushed into the streets due to a lack of supportive housing, this project offers hope for a better way forward,” Stewart said in a statement. “129 residents will soon have their own homes, with comprehensive services that will ensure they are well supported.”

Part of council’s approval was for the MPA Society and BC Housing to create an advisory group to hear any concerns once the project is underway, that a pedestrian-controlled flashing traffic light be installed at 7th and Arbutus, and that the project plans to offer more than one-person occupancy in the units.

The other BC Housing project that has been approved is in the 1400 block of King Edward Avenue East. It will be a 14-storey building with 109 units operated by the Vancouver Native Housing Society.

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The three projects that have yet to receive rezoning approval to proceed are a planned six-story building at 2930 Renfrew St. offering 50 individual units operated by the Lu’ma Native Housing Society, a development of six-story, 64-unit on the 2500 block of South Grandview Highway managed by Community Builders and a 72-unit, six-story, detached project at 1925 Southeast Marine Drive managed by The Kettle Society.

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