THERE'S a new seven-seven storey mixed-use condo building coming to the Lower Lonsdale neighbourhood.
City of North Vancouver council moved ahead with rezoning 127 and 133 East Third St. Monday night after a public hearing that saw mostly positive comments from nearby business owners, and residents.
Once completed, the building by Kamcon Construction, will house four commercial storefronts at street level, 18 market rental housing units and 43 condos, ranging from bachelors under 400 square feet, to two-bedroom units.
The buildings on the site now only have vacant commercial space.
The proposed small tower is in keeping with the city's official community plan for the area, but needs rezoning and council's permission to build higher than 50 feet.
In exchange for two extra floors and another 19 feet of height, the developer is offering the city $100,000 for the community amenity fund, $25,000 worth of public art, streetscape improvements on Third Street, a new pedestrian/cyclist crossing along with 18 units of market rental housing.
But the proposal revived an oft-repeated debate in the city's council chamber: Whether including market rental housing should be enough of an incentive for council to allow developers more height or density for a property.
Coun. Guy Heywood argued that using the city's density-bonusing leverage to shore up rental stock amounts to meddling with the free market, and doesn't necessarily produce rental units that are cheap to live in.
Every time the city accepts rental housing in lieu of more money for community amenities, it is a lost opportunity, added Heywood.
"We are basically wasting taxpayers' money on trying to affect market dynamics and missing an opportunity to build the public infrastructure for which we do not have enough money," he said, referring to North Shore Neighbourhood House and Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre.
But, council agreed it was a worthwhile tradeoff, especially when Kamcon could have simply taken out a permit for a five-storey building without any consultation or benefit for the community with the existing zoning.
And council has its defenders of the city's policy to encourage market-rental housing.
"What housing activists and specialists have told us again and again is that by adding new market rental, you cause the price of older market rental to go down - you contribute to the net affordability of rental housing," said Coun. Craig Keating. "In this respect, this project meets that goal. And it's a goal, by the way, that's in our official community plan."
The need, or lack thereof, for rental housing came up during the public hearing.
Don Peters, co-chair of North Shore Community Resources' housing action committee, spoke in favour of the project.
"This one did catch our attention because it significantly adds to the rental stock in North Vancouver, and in particular, in that neighbourhood.
"I do know you face a number of challenges regarding height, and density, and parking and traffic in your deliberations. . . . The bottom line for me as a member of this community is it does add what we desperately in need of: more rental space."
Nearby resident Meghan Mathieson, said she would support the project if it didn't include more height for the sake of getting market rental units in the building.
"I'd like to challenge the assumption that there's a need for additional market rental units," she said, noting that the neighbourhood has a low average income, a low proportion of homes owned by residents, and a high proportion of people moving in and out.
"I do believe there is a need for affordable rental housing, but I do not believe the term 'market rental' indicates affordable," said Mathieson.
At least 16 neighbours wrote to council, urging them to turn the proposal down on account of how the new building would spoil views and block sunlight.
To those whose views would be affected, Mayor Darrell Mussatto reminded the gallery that no matter what a real estate agent says, no one ever owns the view they see from their homes. He too lost his sightlines of the North Shore mountains when two duplexes were built behind his home, but the neighbourhood has been better for it, he said.