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Vancouver councillor questions drawn-out approval process for new rental housing

Last Updated Mar 4, 2021 at 10:24 pm PDT

(Courtesy Twitter/christineeboyle)
Summary

One city councillor is questioning whether each of these projects should be subjected to separate, spot rezonings

Cllr. Christine Boyle says a more efficient process would allow more rentals in more neighbourhoods

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A new six-storey rental building has been approved in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood, but it took an 11-hour public hearing to get the go-ahead.

One city councillor is questioning whether each of these projects should be subjected to separate, spot rezoning hearings, saying the kind of housing proposed is sorely needed throughout the city.

The building will go up on West 4th Avenue at Balaclava, and have 35 rental suites. Twenty per cent of those units will be secured for “moderate-income earners,” meaning those who make between $30,000 and $80,000 per year.

Cllr. Christine Boyle notes the building is on an arterial, and there are several four-storey condos nearby. She says adding two stories allowed the builder to add the eight moderate-income units needed to qualify for a pilot program.

The Council heard from dozens of speakers over four days, and received additional feedback from the public through more than 650 pieces of correspondence.

Boyle says public discourse and debate are important, but questions whether such an arduous approval process is necessary.

“My position is, it should be easier to build the type of housing that we need than it is to build more of the type of housing that we know we don’t need more of. I wish that it were easier to build secure rental and moderate-income rental housing than it is to build condos, that it was easier to build rental than it is to build more large single detached homes,” she says.

“I think we have the balance wrong in terms of the types of housing that we are requiring to jump a lot of hurdles versus the type of housing that is just preapproved and easy to build. I’d like to see us balance that out and change our policies to make it faster and easier to build below-market rental housing. This was an example of a pretty moderate project that took a very long time to get approved.”

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Boyle says those who spoke to council were split, with strong opinions on both sides. Those in support said rental units — particularly affordable ones — are needed. Those in opposition said this particular building proposal is not well-suited for the neighborhood.

“The setup of these of public hearings like this tends to bring out a lot of strong voices on either side. I’m not sure it’s the best forum to really hear from people because it becomes a bit of a fight for who signs up the most people on either side,” Boyle says.

“I would like to see us allow up to six stories of rental across a wide swath of the city rather than having an individual public hearing for each project because it makes it that much harder for each project to get built. We need this type of housing. We need mixed-income rental housing in more parts of the city. I’d rather have us be planning in a bigger way than requiring each small rental project to go through this type of process.”

Kitsilano rental building - Presentation to council