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District of North Vancouver approves Riverside Drive affordable housing

Council turns attention to next affordable housing sites
riverside drive lands
Four undeveloped lots owned by the District of North Vancouver could become affordable housing.

District of North Vancouver council has given its blessing for an affordable housing building on municipally owned land on Riverside Drive.

Council is applying to Metro Vancouver Housing for funding to build 60 to 90 units of housing that will be rented at rates affordable to low and moderate income households earning between $30,000 and $85,000 per year.

Council has now rezoned the land just north of Old Dollarton Road to allow for between four and six storeys of below-market housing. The actual size and shape of any project there will be subject to the district getting a partnership with Metro Vancouver Housing and future deliberations by council.

At a public hearing held last month, a few nearby residents urged council to turn the proposal down, saying they would prefer the land be kept as it is or designated as parkland, while affordable housing advocates urged them to go ahead.

While Mayor Mike Little said he had apprehensions about the affordable housing being built out to the full six storeys that would be allowed, he said there was no question the site was appropriate for affordable housing.

Only two council members voted against the rezoning – Couns. Lisa Muri and Betty Forbes.

Both took issue with the lack of infrastructure nearby and the fact that the lot was treed, when the district has two soon-to-be decommissioned fire halls on Mountain Highway and St. Denis Avenue that would be more suitable.

“We have a site in a town centre close to a public elementary school with services that are far more supportive and affordable than we do at this site,” Muri said.

Coun. Mathew Bond, however, argued the district should be pursing all available affordable housing sites, not just some.

“We have this site and we have other sites, and what we really need to be thinking about in the big picture is that we need to be doing more, and we need to be scaling up our actions in order to meet the needs that are presented by these multiple crises,” he said.

Later in the meeting, council debated what other properties should be next up for affordable housing.

Since 2020, council has a list of six other plots of district land that might be suitable, including the Mountain Highway and St. Denis fire-hall sites, plus others on Burr Place and Lillooet Road as well as in the Maplewood area.

Council was being asked to vote on starting a public consultation process for staff to gauge the community’s feelings on how each of the sites might be put to better use.

Little, though, amended the motion to focus just on the two fire facilities, which he said would allow the district to focus on lots most likely to be approved for affordable housing in the near term.

“Some of them have really great potential. Others, not so much. These two, I think I can say with some confidence, we can find viable solutions for,” he said, adding later that he doesn’t oppose the remaining sites being pursued in the future.

That triggered another debate from other council members who wanted to see every site go for public consultations, as getting funding and regulatory approvals can take years.

“We might as well start that now. It'd be great to engage CapU, the Tsleil-Waututh, the Squamish Nation, like, let's get everyone involved in this conversation and hear the community's ideas for how we can solve some of our challenges on these and look at these specific locations,” said Coun. Megan Curren.

Little’s motion passed, however, and consultations on the two fire-hall sites will go ahead in early 2022.