City of North Vancouver council has cleared the way for a new North Shore Neighbourhood House, bringing with it up to 18 storeys of affordable housing and a seniors respite centre.
Council voted unanimously Monday night (Oct. 25) to rezone the 200 block of East Second Street to become a new “community hub.”
The project will be broken into phases so that the current programming offered by North Shore Neighbourhood House won’t have to be put on hold. During the first phase, with construction expected to start in 2022, the Catalyst Community Developments Society will build a six-storey below-market rental building with a seniors respite centre, to be run by Care BC, on the main floor – a project that was considered and then rejected by District of North Vancouver council for the Delbrook lands in 2018.
Phase 2, which is subject to city funding and outside grants, includes a 30,000-square-foot new home for North Shore Neighbourhood House, childcare, and up to 18 storeys of affordable housing to be run by Hollyburn Family Services Society.
The final phase of the project will be a new Derek Inman Park to be built on the eastern side of the property.
During a public hearing, Monday, there was no dispute from anyone that North Shore Neighbourhood House needs and deserves a new home built to modern standards. But a few nearby residents phoned in to tell council the 18-storey affordable rental building was too high, urging them to cut down its size.
“Having low-income families there on the Second, while just south of that you have apartments that are worth millions and millions of dollars … I don't think in the long run would create a good fit to have 18 floors,” said Esplanade resident Omar Tazi.
Most speakers, however, including a sitting MLA, a former MLA and a former mayor, urged council to go ahead.
Don Peters, chairman of North Shore Community Resource Society’s Community Housing Action Committee, said the need for more affordable rental homes has never been so desperate.
“We have never seen a redevelopment as significant, as important to the community as this one will be for the people of the City of North Vancouver,” he said.
North Vancouver-Lonsdale NDP MLA Bowinn Ma called to remind council that reducing the size of the project would mean more families and individuals sleeping in cars, on the streets or staying in unsafe conditions because they have nowhere else they can go.
“Those among us who are safely and securely housed may be tempted to see this as hyperbole, but I assure you it is not. It is that serious in our communities and it does not have to be. You don't always have a senior government partner on this issue, but you do right now,” she said.
Developer Michael Reed, who is building a market rental apartment immediately to the north, also advised council to put the needs of Hollyburn and North Shore Neighbourhood House’s clients first.
“Though I could grieve the loss of views from our building, I do personally believe that everyone's right to have a decent roof over their heads in a safe environment should supersede private views,” he said.
Council members agreed, with several noting that most of the property’s neighbours to the west already have taller buildings on them.
“It's just such a great opportunity, I don't think that we can do anything but go with it,” said Coun. Holly Back.
In early October, Coun. Don Bell voted against sending the rezoning to a public hearing, largely because he believed 18 storeys is too high for the 200 block. On Monday, Bell said he still feels that way but was willing to make an exception to get more affordable housing.
“I acknowledge that affordable housing is a crisis,” he said, noting it impacts seniors, people on low incomes, and those working in the service industry. “The height of the building and the number of units made possible by this density makes the rental homes affordable for those that need it.”
After reflecting on personal stories of people whose lives were made better because the services offered by North Shore Neighbourhood House, Mayor Linda Buchanan was close to tears as she told the council how proud she was of them for approving the rezoning unanimously.
“The past year has not been easy and for some, it has been harder than we can even imagine. But I am proud of how our community has come together to support one another. It is not time to settle. It is time to dream bigger and continue to ensure that the city that has always been the home for everyone continues to be so,” she said.