City of North Van OKs affordable rental complex

City of North Vancouver council has given its approval to a rental and affordable housing building in Central Lonsdale.

The six-storey, 85-unit building at 125 East 20th St. will replace 28-unit apartment built in 1965.

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Ten of the units will be offered at $375 per month to clients of the Vancouver Resource Society for the Physically Disabled, which owns the land.

VRS has more than 500 units of housing around the Lower Mainland including 10 in the City of North Vancouver.

In order to make the project financially viable, the city is offering up $400,000 from its affordable housing reserve fund.

Current tenants displaced by the redevelopment, most of whom are seniors, are being offered the chance to move into the new building at below-market rates. Tenants with a tenure of 12 years or more will be offered one-bedroom units for $1,220 or two-bedroom units for $1,880, subject to a means test. Of the 28 tenants, 24 have expressed interest to return to the new building and two have purchased homes elsewhere, according to the developer, and all of them have been rehoused.

“I’m not sure we’ve seen this kind of arrangement before … but it is quite impressive, that’s for sure,” Don Peters, chairman of North Shore Community Resources Society’s Community Housing Action Committee, told council during a public hearing for the project Monday night. “Knowing you have the opportunity to return to your neighbourhood and neighbours and friends is huge.”

During the public hearing, the project had a steady stream of supporters, many of them people with disabilities or parents of adults with disabilities, urging council to vote in favour of a project that would grant independence to people who have the most difficulty finding housing.

Negin Farhangdoost said she was moved several times by BC Housing to sites that weren’t appropriate for a person with cerebral palsy but she is now living independently thanks to VRS.

“I’m here to support this VRS housing project and to let the ministry know we people with physical disabilities matter and I’m very proud of who I am and what I represent,” she said.

Although some neighbours had written to express concern about the building’s appearance, height and the shadow it would cast, the only issues raised at the public hearing were construction impacts and parking.

“I’m right next door to what sounds like a really fantastic project. I do want to say, as an individual, I’m totally in support of it. I think it’s really great. It looks great. It’s going to be a wonderful community service,” said neighbour Karen Duthie.

Council’s support wasn’t just unanimous, it was enthusiastic. Mayor Linda Buchanan held back tears, saying she was proud of the leadership her council members were showing.

“This just goes to show the level of innovation we can have when we have great minds on staff and great minds in the community and in the non-profit and private sector come together and provide the kind of housing that it so difficult for us to be able to provide in today’s market,” she said.

“I think what we’re seeing is a trend where people aren’t that open, or caring or inclusive so, to have a council that is going to unanimously support this, is something I think we should be very, very proud about. We’ve seen across many municipalities, projects have been cancelled at the last hour. It’s devastating to not only the families and people involved in those projects, it’s devastating to the community.”

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