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North Van District approves 481 units in two major developments

'We’re catching up on decades and decades of disinvestment in rental housing.'

District of North Vancouver council has approved 481 new homes in two projects in the Seymour and Lynn Creek neighbourhoods – the first major residential rezonings to pass council since the 2018 election.

Council voted in favour of Anthem Properties’ proposal to build 341 units of housing and a coffee shop on a 2.5-hectare vacant lot on Mount Seymour Parkway and Lytton Street at its Jan. 11 general meeting.

In the same meeting, council also approved TPL Developments’ proposal for a six-storey, 140-unit all-rental housing project at 220 Mountain Hwy. and 1515-1555 Oxford St. 

The Seymour Estates development was the more contentious of the two projects. But after a lengthy discussion, council voted 5-2 in favour of moving forward.

The development will offer 56 market rentals, 33 below-market rentals offered at 15 to 25 per cent below Canada Mortgate and Housing Corp. median rates for the municipality and run by Hollyburn Family Services Society, 25 rent-to-own units for first-time buyers, and one townhouse unit in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. The remaining units are market condos and townhouses.

The site was previously home to 114 townhouse units built in 1969 but, when the complex reached the end of its useful life, owners negotiated to sell the property to Anthem. The townhouses were demolished in 2019.

At a public hearing held Nov. 17, and continued Dec. 15, the majority of 51 speakers supported the project, with many in favour of the rent-to-own units. Others were happy with the developer’s environmental initiatives, including a proposed zero fossil fuel energy site.

Meanwhile, a handful of residents were opposed, raising issues with increases to traffic and density, childcare not being provided as part of the project and building heights.

The majority of councillors supported the project for its diverse affordable living options, environmental initiatives, and closeness to transit, schools and other amenities.

“We’ve heard from people who want safe and secure rental housing, we’ve heard from people who want to just get a foot into the housing market and for whom the rent-to-own element of this project would give them that opportunity,” said Coun. Jordan Back. “I think the benefits of a development like this far outweigh any negative impacts and it will bring renewed vibrancy to this part of our community.”

Coun. Mathew Bond echoed the support for housing options, highlighting the significantly discounted rentals “means that a single person making $20 an hour can afford a brand-new studio apartment, in this neighborhood that’s been a great place for multi-family housing for the past 50 years.”

However, Couns. Lisa Muri and Jim Hanson were both opposed with similar concerns about increased density and cars. 

“The valuable gains of electric energy will be lost by the significant impacts of GHGs created by well over 600 new vehicles on and off site to the area as a result of this application,” said Muri. “I thought our environment was the priority.”

Hanson said the density belonged closer to transit hubs and town centres.

“Let us be clear, this proposal calls for a tripling of density in a car dependent location. In my view, this is neither good community planning, nor good climate policy,” he said.

Mayor Mike Little supported the project, saying while he recognized the concerns from the public, he believed the development offered a significant component of affordability that was needed for the area.

“I think that it’s still generally a good fit for the community,” he said, mentioning its closeness to amenities and his own parents’ history in the area. 

Little said while the development was “a little more dense” than he would have liked, it’s what had to be done in order to achieve diversity in housing.

“I think there’s a lot of good in this development and I look forward to seeing this project move forward,” he said.

On the Mountain Highway rental project, the vote was unanimous, with council agreeing it was an overdue addition of much needed rentals in an ideal location close to transit. It was also strongly supported at a public hearing held on Dec. 8.

Little highlighted that for a 17-year period, not a single purpose-built rental development was approved in the District of North Vancouver, adding that council had to be “intentional about adding these kinds of projects and finding places for them to work.”

Bond agreed.

“We’re catching up on decades and decades of disinvestment in rental housing and in rental homes,” he said.

The two housing projects both passed second and third readings and will return to council at a later date to be considered for final adoption.

Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.