Group that advocates for more affordable housing loses core funding from North Van District

A committee that advocates for increasing the stock of affordable housing on the North Shore will not receive core funding from the District of North Vancouver this year, following a decision from council Monday night.

Council opted to reject staff’s recommendation to approve $11,517 in ongoing core grant funding for the Community Housing Action Committee, which is operated by North Shore Community Resources Society, and instead directed the committee to apply for a municipal community services grant.

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Addressing council prior to its decision during the March 4 council meeting, Murray Mollard, executive director at North Shore Community Resources Society, said the organization was “appreciative of any funding” but insisted a community services grant would “provide a small fraction of the amount that we’d like to get through a core grant.”

The Community Housing Action Committee, which includes representatives from local non-profits, Realtors and retired planners, among others, has a mandate that includes researching housing policy, working with Metro Vancouver housing experts and engaging with the public about affordable housing across the North Shore, according to a description on North Shore Community Resources Society website.

Council voted 5-2 to deny the housing committee’s request for core grant funding – the decision coming on the heels of a Jan. 21 meeting where council had asked staff to further review its funding of the committee.

The district and the housing committee are not necessarily aligned when it comes to their visions for affordable housing, said Mayor Mike Little, who voted against providing the committee with core funding.

“I have to conclude that the Emery (redevelopment) decision, which was supported by (the housing committee), did hurt the reputation of the District of North Vancouver, and the community, and broke a lot of trust in Lynn Valley,” said Little. “My view is this can be adequately dealt with on an annual basis through a community services grant.”

The previous district council approved the 411-unit Emery Village redevelopment last year, which followed a lengthy process and often contentious debate. The project from developer Mosaic Homes included 327 strata units and 84 rental units, as well as 23 rentals set to be rented at 85 per cent market rates and 18 units set to be rented at 75 per cent market rates. Despite this, 61 existing rental apartments, and 37 occupied households, were displaced as a result of the project’s approval.   

Coun. Jim Hanson said he thought there was a “perception” that the housing committee hadn’t been “pursuing the kinds of housing options the community really wants” with regards to Emery Village.

The housing committee also supported the development of an 80-unit below-market housing project at the site of the former Delbrook rec centre, which was defeated by the new district council in November, 2018.

Coun. Lisa Muri, who had previously supported core funding for the group because they “went to the wall” for residents of Mountain Court, a Lynn Valley rental complex the district approved for redevelopment in 2015, said she was now unsure about the housing committee’s role in the community following its support of projects such as the Emery Village redevelopment.

“None of this had to happen,” said Muri. “$11,000 doesn’t even represent a drop in a bucket about how I feel about affordable housing.”

Reached for comment following council’s decision, Mollard said he was “disappointed” at the result but assured the housing committee would continue to work to “advance the cause of affordable housing.”

“We’re going to work with the district council and other councils on the North Shore. We’re going to just move forward,” said Mollard.

The Community Housing Action Committee has applied for a $6,000 community services grant, which will be confirmed in either May or June, according to a district staff report.

Coun. Jordan Back, who along with Coun. Mathew Bond were the lone supporters of continuing to provide the housing group with core funding, warned that the decision could affect how people perceive council when it came to the affordable housing file.

“What we’re saying tonight, I think partly, by not granting this core funding is that we can do a better job than CHAC. And hopefully that’s true,” said Back.

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