City of North Vancouver hands out Onni amenities

Childcare, affordable housing for Safeway site

North Shore Neighbourhood House and the YWCA of Metro Vancouver will be on the receiving end of roughly $10-million worth of childcare space and affordable housing in Onni's redevelopment of the old Safeway site.

Council granted Onni an extra 82,000 square feet of developable space in exchange for 6,100 square feet of childcare space and 10,000 square feet (roughly 10 units) of affordable housing when the project was approved last year.

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After seeking proposals from a number of nonprofits, council voted May 5 to grant North Shore Neighbourhood House a long-term lease for the childcare space and sell the condo units to YWCA for a nominal fee.

The sale will come with a covenant that restricts the owner to providing affordable housing and gives the city the first right of refusal to purchase the units back. Should the city decide to sell the units in the future, the cash will go to the city's amenity fund.

S.U.C.C.E.S.S, Hollyburn Family Services, and the My Own Space Housing Society were also invited to submit proposals for the affordable housing. Lonsdale Creek Daycare Society was the only other contender for the childcare space.

"They all do excellent work but at the end of the day, it's really looking at specific criteria and what's going to be a particular good fit," said Coun. Linda Buchanan, noting both selected groups had proven records in their respective fields. "I think the synergy between these two applications will create a really good opportunity for addressing childcare in our community as well as some inequities for single young women with children."

While Coun. Craig Keating said he is a supporter of both nonprofits, he voted against the motion on the grounds that My Own Space Housing Society, which aims to find long-term housing for adults with disabilities, lobbied council members for the space during the public process before Onni won its approval.

"I made it clear all along that I thought the aims and the work of My Own Space Housing were important to the entire development of this project. I think they put in a lot of work," he said.

Coun. Rod Clark stood by the city's method of putting out a request for proposals.

"I'm glad council came to a process removed from ourselves and any political influence and went with RFPs (requests for proposals)," he said. "I think that's a process we need to follow always."

Coun. Guy Heywood voted against the motion on the grounds the assets would end up being liabilities for the city and that the non-profits would rather have capital funding. Heywood voted against the Onni project in protest over the city getting into providing services that should be up to the province.

"I think we should learn a lesson about how not to get involved in the jurisdictions of senior levels of government," he said.

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