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West Van celebrates start of affordable rental housing project

Gordon Avenue project to provide 156 subsidized rental apartments

After years in the planning process, a groundbreaking in West Vancouver celebrated the official start of construction on a rare affordable housing project in municipality, that will provide over 150 subsidized rental apartments.

Aimed at “missing middle” renters and families, the $72 million Village West project being built by the Kiwanis North Shore Housing Society at 2195 Gordon Ave. will provide 156 rental apartments in two six-storey wood-frame buildings. About 37 per cent of the units will be two-bedroom apartments and 15 per cent will be three-bedroom units, meaning over half of the project will designated for families. The project will also include one-bedroom and studio apartments.

Apartments in the project will rent at below-market rates of approximately 75 per cent of market rates and will range from $1,288 to $3,036 per month, according to Kiwanis. The rental project is aimed at households earning between $51,000 and $173,800 – with the latter figure being the maximum amount households could earn while still qualifying for the larger units.

West Vancouver MP Patrick Weiler described the project Friday as a significant step in making it possible for more middle income families to live in the community.

Currently “a full 75 per cent of the people that work in West Van don’t live in West Van, and they have to commute from elsewhere,” said Weiler.

Those people include teachers, police officers, firefighters and workers in other local businesses, said Weiler and West Vancouver MLA Karin Kirkpatrick.

Several speakers gave credit to the work of former councils, including former mayor Mary-Ann Booth, former deputy CAO Mark Chan and several community members for early efforts in pushing the project forward.

“Without that kind of community support, these types of projects don’t move forward,” said Patrick McLaughlin of the Kiwanis North Shore Housing Society.

Acting Mayor Linda Watt said West Vancouver is “committed to continuing our collaborative efforts with nonprofit groups" on affordable housing.

Tenants must show connection to community

The Kiwanis Housing Society, which is building and operating the project, will choose tenants for the project through an application process. In order to apply, tenants must show a “substantial connection to the West Vancouver community” including living in West Vancouver for at least a year, working in West Vancouver or attending school in the municipality. People who own property elsewhere won’t qualify for the subsidized housing.

The District of West Vancouver will continue to own the land and is leasing it to the Kiwanis housing society for 60 years at no cost. The municipality is also waiving development cost charges for the project.

The federal and provincial governments are kicking in $1.4 million towards the rental building, while Kiwanis is providing $15.78 million. The province is also providing the housing society with $55.83 million low-interest loan through its HousingHub program, which Kiwanis will repay.

Also included in the project is a 3,000 square-foot adult day care centre for seniors and people with disabilities which will be run Vancouver Coastal Health, under a 60-year lease and provide therapeutic social and recreation programs. The Lions Gate Hospital Foundation has committed $3.65 million towards that, which will cover the cost of tenant improvements.

Construction on the site, adjacent to the existing Kiwanis Garden Village, began earlier this fall, leading several speakers at Friday’s event to jokingly refer to the amount of ground that had already been broken prior to the official groundbreaking. Construction is expected to wrap up in 2026.

Affordable rental project a decade in the making

The start of the project follows a decade-long process to get to this point.

In 2014, the municipality bought the land from Vancouver Coastal Health for $16.4 million with proceeds the district acquired from the sale of the former West Vancouver Police Department property on Marine Drive.

In 2020, council voted to rezone the two properties on the site to allow for an eight-storey, 58-unit strata project on the south side, and up to 165 below-market rentals on the north side.

Kiwanis was chosen through an open bidding process to build and operate the below-market rental housing project. The building has a target completion date of the spring of 2026.

An image showing what the new affordable rental housing project on Gordon Avenue will look like. | RLA Architects

The project hasn’t been without its critics over the years.

Some members of the public suggested council should have sold the land to a developer and used the profit to pay for affordable housing elsewhere.

During the term of the last council, which approved the project, Couns. Peter Lambur and Sharon Thompson both voted against the project, largely because they would have preferred the district pursue a different model of affordable housing. Thompson said she’d like to see the district build a co-op or rent-to-own project at the site.

Lambur also questioned spending public money to subsidize households making over $100,000, arguing the focus should be on more vulnerable people. That sentiment was also expressed by Mayor Mark Sager during the 2022 election campaign.

As part of the land redevelopment, West Vancouver council also voted to lease the southern portion of the land at 2195 Gordon Avenue to developer Darwin Properties for 99 years in exchange for $22.195 million. Darwin plans to build an eight-storey strata condo project “Weston Place” on the site, which will include one-, two- and three-bedroom luxury apartments, ranging from about 790 to 2,100 square feet. The company is currently conducting “presales” of that project and is expected to submit its building permit application to the municipality soon. That projected is slated for completion in late 2026.

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