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North Van seeks public’s say on district land use for affordable housing

On the heels of advancing one affordable housing project, the District of North Vancouver may be looking to clear the way for a few more. Council voted unanimously Monday night on a motion from Coun.

On the heels of advancing one affordable housing project, the District of North Vancouver may be looking to clear the way for a few more.

Council voted unanimously Monday night on a motion from Coun. Mathew Bond aimed at taking district-owned land and putting it to use combatting the housing crisis.

The district has invested untold thousands of hours of council, staff and volunteer time into debating and creating housing policies and it was time to show some action, Bond said.

“With all this discussion and all this work, I don't think that we've seen the results necessary to address the housing crisis in the District of North Vancouver at both the speed and scale required to provide homes for low- and moderate-income residents in our community,” he said.

Bond's motion calls on the district to draw up plans that would allow for rental, affordable or social housing on the land and to seek the community's input on the matter at the same time.

The properties in question include four single-family lots on Riverside Drive and the Maplewood Lands on Old Dollarton Road, the soon-to-be-decommissioned fire training centre at 900 St. Denis Avenue, more than 250,000 square feet of land on either side of Lillooet Road, 150,000 square feet of property off Burr Place, and a sizable plot of land at the corner of Mountain Highway and Hunter Street.

Bond said council and the community may decide affordable housing isn’t the best conceivable use for some of the land, but he added it was critical for the public to be invited to first have their say. Most council discussions about municipally owned land are done behind closed doors.

The current council has so far rejected below-market housing projects on the Delbrook Lands and on Burr Place. Council later rezoned the Delbrook lands to allow for a smaller affordable housing project with plans to later find a partner to develop it.

At their last regular meeting in October, council voted to advance a rezoning for 90 units of affordable housing in a six-storey building at 267 and 271 Orwell St. Under BC Housing’s funding model, one-fifth of the units would be offered at shelter rates. Half of the suites will be capped at no more than 30 per cent of the gross income for households earning between $51,000 and $90,500, depending on the number of bedrooms. And the remaining units would range from $1,650 per month for a one-bedroom to $2,450 per month for a three-bedroom unit, and be available to households with incomes between $71,200 and $104,440.

The public hearing for that project is slated for Nov. 10.

Coun. Jordan Back urged council to act quickly on Bond’s motion so any potential affordable housing projects on the land could be eligible for grant funding while it’s still available.

“There's more money on the table than there's been in a very long time when it comes to social housing and if we want our community to benefit from it, we do need to act now,” he said.

Mayor Mike Little voted in favour of Bond’s motion, but not before lamenting that it amounted to acceptance of downloading from senior levels of government.

“The provincial and federal government historically were responsible for social housing. It wasn't municipal responsibility. Now the municipalities have recognized that you can't get the federal and provincial dollars unless you play ball on the land and create the opportunities,” he said. “The provincial government is the largest single land holder in the District of North Vancouver. They own a tremendous amount of land here, and then apply pressure on us to use our land to address social housing issues which is their responsibility.”

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