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District of North Van advances CapU staff and student housing

The project has been through a few changes since it was first pitched in 2019. The public will now have their say.
A design rendering shows Darwin Properties' proposed rental housing project for Capilano University students and staff, on Monashee Drive, adjacent to the North Vancouver campus. | TKA+D Architecture + Design

More than three years after it was first pitched, District of North Vancouver council has voted to advance a rental housing projected targeted for Capilano University students and staff, just steps off campus.

Council voted unanimously Monday night to hold a public hearing for Darwin Properties’ proposal for 315 rental homes as well as 8,570 square feet of commercial space in two six-storey buildings at 1310 Monashee Dr.

The site is currently home to dog kennels and a dog daycare business. It is across the street from the school’s Nat and Flora Bosa Centre for Film & Animation and bus loop.

Darwin first filed a preliminary application for the plan in 2019. In May, the detailed application for the project came before council for a vote, but council and staff flagged numerous concerns: not enough units guaranteed for exclusive use by CapU staff, students and faculty, a lack of community amenity contributions from the developer, and assurance that the student rents are in line with other off-campus options in the region.

Since then, district staff and Darwin have refined the project. Under the current proposal, half of the units would be reserved exclusively for CapU, 32 of which would be at below-market rates for students. And before the remaining units are put on the market, they will first be made available to the CapU student and staff community on a priority basis.

“I think that those [issues] have been adequately addressed,” said Mayor Mike Little. “We now have the full support of the university. We have the support of the staff to move forward to first reading. I support that we go to public hearing and hear from the community where they stand on the matter.”

With rents ranging from $1,348 per month for a below-market studio to $3,600 for a three-bedroom at market rate, some council members were still leery about the costs, and others wanted more control over who would be eligible to rent the other suites. The vote to advance Darwin’s project to a public hearing, though, was unanimous.

“I think what we have is a much stronger proposal – one that’s going to create the biggest benefit to the university community,” said Coun. Jordan Back. “All along, it has been my feeling is that it really needs to benefit the students, staff and faculty first.”

Darwin will seek out a non-profit housing provider to vet the applications and oversee the leasing of the non-market units.

Coun. Lisa Muri noted that, if approved, it would be the most complex housing agreement ever negotiated by the district, and said council should take more time to ensure all their questions are answered before the project comes up for approval.

The public hearing will likely be held in late January, Little said, which should give council members plenty of time to put their questions to district staff and the developer.