District of North Vancouver gets first peek at Delbrook Lands affordable housing

A picture is starting to emerge of exactly what kind of affordable housing, child- and seniors care project might one day occupy a piece of the Delbrook Lands.

District of North Vancouver council got an update Monday night on the project, which is part of a years-long plan to come up with new uses for the site of the former Delbrook Community Centre on Queens Road at Stanley Avenue, now that the new centre is open.

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Among more green space and other amenities, staff envision 80 to 88 units of affordable, below-market rental units in a five-storey building on the south end of the property where a surface parking lot now sits. The main floor would be taken up by a seniors’facility for adult daycare and 12 overnight seniors respite beds. A non-profit childcare service big enough for 35 kids age 0 to five would also open on the site.

District staff have selected the Catalyst Community Developments Society, a development industry-based non-profit that builds and runs below-market housing, as the preferred partner for the project. Care BC has been chosen as the operator for the seniors’facility and Vancouver Coastal Health has promised operational funding.

Staff estimate the total cost to district taxpayers is $9 million, taking into account waved permit fees and development costs charges, ongoing tax exemptions, servicing the site with utilities and sidewalks, leasing the land to Catalyst at a nominal rate and foregoing any revenue the district might have collected from selling the land, which they last estimated was worth $6 million. One of the conclusions of the planning process was that none of the land should be sold for redevelopment.

Catalyst estimates the construction will cost another $22 to $25 million, which would be financed by low-interest loans amortized over 35 years. Once the building is paid off, rents could be lowered or used to fund other affordable housing projects, according to the company.

Catalyst got the nod after district staff contacted a number of non-profits that had previously applied to partner on a different project in Lynn Creek and asked them to prepare a new proposal for the Delbrook Lands. The society targets tenants with a gross income level in the range of $25,000 to $65,000 per year and applicants must pass a means test, according to a district staff report. The units would likely be made available at rents starting at $1,086 for a one-bedroom and rangeing up to $1,526 for a three-bedroom.

The plan is flexible though and some units could be made available at the $375 per month, the amount those on social assistance receive to cover housing costs, if the subsidized units are offset by higher rents elsewhere in the building.

At this point, the numbers are all rough estimates and more refined finances are expected in 2018 following another round of public consultations this fall.

The plan has the early backing of Don Peters, chairman of the North Shore Community Resources’community housing action committee. Peters regularly attends meetings of all three North Shore municipal councils to lobby for more affordable housing but on Monday night, he had the ability to lobby for it as someone who lives adjacent to the proposed building.

“I take great pleasure in this tonight, I must say,”he said. “I think this location is a gem and I am heartened by this concept plan for this beautiful piece of real estate. It is faithful to the careful process we’ve undergone over the last couple of years and I’m proud that we have this opportunity to offer this chance to others who otherwise would be unlikely to be able to live here. It is a superb plan.”

Members of the Delbrook Community Association also showed up and urged council to keep them in mind during consultations, especially when they had many practical concerns and unanswered questions. Among them: How Catalysts’s other subsidized rental buildings are run, what level of support will there be for residents with special needs, what the composition of the units will be and whether they can attract the families and locals the district is aiming for, how the tenants will be selected and from what catchment area, as well as whether the project would instigate parking disputes in neighbourhood. The proposed building’s five-storey height was also likely going to be a concern, they added.

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