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Letter: Gordon Ave affordable housing delivers on West Van's goals for community

"The word 'subsidy' has been used frequently about this proposal, but this is not accurate," writes Mayor Mary Ann Booth in response to a critical letter by former mayor Michael Smith.
2195 Gordon Ave rendering
District of West Vancouver Council voted unanimously on May 9 to move ahead with the affordable housing project at 2195 Gordon Ave.

Dear Editor:

Re:  Can Taxpayers Afford Gordon Avenue Proposal?, May 25 letter to the editor.

I would like to address some of the statements in the letter to the editor from former mayor Michael Smith, published in the May 25 North Shore News.
When Mike Smith was mayor and I was a councillor, I always admired his intelligent and pragmatic approach. In fact, our voting records were almost identical during our seven years working together. 

However, some of the things Mike did not address in his letter just illustrate how complex the decisions that council needs to make really are. The nature of our community is changing rapidly and its needs have only become more challenging and pressing over the past four years. 

Firstly, Mike did not mention that there are two parcels of land at 2195 Gordon Ave. This project proposes leasing one parcel for affordable housing, but it also includes on a second parcel, a long-term lease for strata condominiums which we “sold” for $22.2 million, a $6-million profit on our original $16-million investment.

Mike is also concerned that there will be no “ability to determine the eligibility of the applicants now or in the future” What he may not know is that council has given first reading to a proposed housing agreement that would ensure the units are for families, workers, and seniors who have a substantial connection to West Vancouver.

He is correct when he says, “Council does not have the expertise or staff to assume that role [of providing housing].” That is why we are proposing a long-term lease to Kiwanis, which has successfully managed much-needed and greatly appreciated below-market rental housing right beside this location for the past 30 years.

Kiwanis would also build an adult day centre to be operated by Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, providing respite to many members of our community.

The word “subsidy” has been used frequently about this proposal, but this is not accurate. All of this would be provided by, and at the cost of, Kiwanis, Darwin and Vancouver Coastal Health, with no ongoing subsidy by the district.

I think everyone knows that West Vancouver has the most unaffordable housing in the country. We rely on workers to commute here for our community to function every day. Giving them an opportunity to live locally makes it possible for them to become full members of our community, and take many commuters off the road

Back in 2018, when Mike was mayor, he, along with all of council, voted to move ahead with this project based on the principles of below-market rentals, housing for moderate income people, and a reasonable return on the district’s purchase price. Since then, we added the adult day centre.

I am proud to say that we did the right thing then, and it is even more important today to deliver on these goals for the community. 

Finally, it’s important to note that council proposes to hold onto all of this land. Selling land to finance current operations and lower taxes for current residents is simply not sustainable. There’s only a finite amount of land that the district owns. This proposal utilizes the land for our community’s needs today, and then returns it to future generations tomorrow. The real question is, can West Vancouver afford to not proceed with this proposal?

Mayor Mary-Ann Booth
West Vancouver

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