Small-house proposal leads to big debate

'Affordable' 12-home subdivision not so popular with NV neighbours

City of North Vancouver council listened to a vocal public hearing Monday night for a rezoning application for 19522012 Larson Rd., with roughly an equal number of supporters and detractors.

The project would see the existing three houses replaced with 12 homes between 2,000 and 2,223 square feet - smaller than those typically found on the North Shore. The aim of developer Daniel Diebolt would be to sell to young families who want something more affordable than the North Shore currently offers.

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A steady stream of supporters came to the mic to speak in favour of the project, most of them in the young condo-dwelling/renting demographic and on the hunt for a family home.

"We have looked at hundreds of homes, all of which are in our affordability range. They're all old. They need renovations - huge amounts of work," said Lindsay Storey, a North Vancouver teacher.

"And regardless of what's been reported in the news about a slow market, we've currently lost two bids to competition. . . . Houses are going for over asking (price), simply because there's not an available product out there."

But Diebolt's proposal isn't going over well with many of the neighbours opposed to more density in the otherwise quiet area.

"I feel a huge sense of pride that I was able to own a home in this neighbourhood. Right now when we look out our dining room window, we see three homes on large lots with lots of green space," said Christa Hull, who lives across the street.

"What we don't want to see happen in our neighbourhood is an increase of density and foot traffic, vehicle traffic, (and) noise."

The meeting came with a fair dose of scepticism for what constituted "affordable" in the mind of the developer and the city.

"Time and time again, I've heard other members of my generation come out and say how there's a real lack of affordable housing," said Amanda Nichol, adding that she too would like to own a home but is currently priced out of the North Vancouver market.

"If these were to pop up overnight, in the current market, what would you expect to list them for as an asking price?"

The project's homes are meant to be an alternative to condos and townhouses or large homes with coach houses which typically fetch at least $1.5 million, Diebolt responded.

"The basis of our project is that bigger homes sell for more than smaller homes so what we're trying to create is an affordable product for single-family home, free-title lots," Diebolt said.

"A condo will be cheaper than a townhouse, which will be cheaper than a single-family home. But a new, smaller single-family home should be in the range of a duplex, and we see those in the $800,000s and $900,000s."

The official community plan for the neighbourhood allows for the type of density Diebolt is seeking, or potentially even more by allowing him to subdivide the property into seven lots, each with a separate coach house.

Looking to maximize the space, Diebolt said smaller houses are more appropriate for the market he is targeting, even though it may not be popular with the neighbours.

"Both plans are a big change for the area, and while I sympathize, I think we provide the better plan," he said.

Despite the robust hearing, council would not vote on whether to send the project forward with only four of the seven elected members present for the meeting. Coun. Don Bell was absent due to illness and Couns. Craig Keating and Linda Buchanan were out of town.

Council is expected to pick up the issue again at the Feb. 4 meeting. Bell, Buchanan and Keating will all be required to watch a recording of the public hearing or read the official transcripts before voting.

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