Housing ‘solutions lab’ sought by City of North Van

City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan says it’s time for the North Shore’s municipalities to stop trying to tackle the housing affordability crisis in isolation.

Buchanan won unanimous support for a motion Monday night calling for a “North Shore Housing Solutions Lab,” modelled on the Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project.

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The lab would bring all three North Shore governments, the province and federal government, First Nations, non-profits and major employers together to work on “opportunities and high impact actions to address the urgent need for housing facing low and moderate income earners.”

“Some of the market has taken care of people who are high-end earners and have the privilege of getting into the market,” she said. “We really have a challenge of meeting the needs … for the low to moderate income earners – $30,000 to $110,00 income earners, many of whom are in the public service. They serve our community in critical ways, whether they be teachers providing education, nurses, firefighters.”

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. does offer innovation grants, which Buchanan said the city should be applying for right away.

“We’ve leveraged a lot of the tools we have available to us but we’re still not being able to provide the opportunity for them to rent or get into some form of home ownership,” she said.

Coun. Tony Valente praised Buchanan’s plan to use INSTPP as a template. “We know that our problems of traffic and housing certainly don’t stop at our borders and I think the integrated response that you’re proposing makes a lot of sense,” he said.

Valente added he’d like to see the solutions lab investigate the non-profit housing model Whistler has used to house its workforce.

“They started 20 years ago and we certainly need to catch up,” he said.

Coun. Don Bell stressed the interconnectedness of housing and transportation.

“We’ve been told by many businesses they are losing employees who don’t want to make that commute because it’s an hour or more just getting over here in the morning,” he said.

Blueridge resident Dave Currey asked council to focus on workforce housing, which he said the North Shore’s “millionaire NIMBYs” will benefit from more than they realize.

“We on the North Shore have been fortunate since over the past 30 years or 40 years, property values have increased beyond expectations. Those fortunate enough to have purchased homes here find themselves as millionaires,” he said. “These North Shore owners need to wake up and face facts. This workforce, the caregivers, the health care support staff, the restaurant staff, the retail clerks, etc., are expected to be available to serve us.”

The District of West Vancouver is currently doing consultations on plans for below-market rental housing on a piece of municipal-owned land on Gordon Avenue. And the District of North Vancouver council is due to meet Monday to help hammer out a definition for what “affordable” means before approving any housing projects.

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