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Editorial: West Van's rejection of rental-only zone a missed opportunity

Rezoning would have given the district more control over the fate of existing rental buildings
West Vancouver council recently voted to reject a rental-only zone for older apartment buildings in Ambleside. | Nick Laba / North Shore News

West Vancouver’s decision this week to reject a rental-only zone for 30 of its older Ambleside apartments feels like a wasted opportunity.

The rental-only zone – recommended by the district’s own planning staff and housing advocates – would have created a level of protection for those buildings by making purpose-built rental the default option for redevelopment. It’s a tool that’s been used in other municipalities and upheld in court.

But in a classic let’s-ask-the-fox-about-the-hen-house-arrangements take, the majority of council said they’d prefer to specifically ask the owners of those properties what they think. Those owners already had an opportunity to comment during the public hearing, just like everybody else did. But never mind. It’s not difficult to imagine what they’re going to say.

Strangely, we didn’t hear anyone clamouring to ask the approximately 3,000 people who live in those apartments what they think. Council’s job, however, isn’t to represent specific interests, but to represent the interests of the whole community.

Affordable housing is in drastically short supply in West Van, and this rezoning would have given the district far more control over the fate of its existing rental supply. In order to even come close to hitting affordable housing targets, not only do municipalities need to approve more rental housing, but they need to protect what’s already there.

A rental-only zone wouldn’t preclude council considering other applications. But it would have put the municipality in a position of strength when comes to any negotiations. Inexplicably, council has chosen to reject that, showing there’s still a lot more talk than action when it comes to affordable housing.

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