As a former North Shore resident, I’m all too familiar with how unaffordable West Vancouver has become. It’s an area that is, for the most part, mired in single-family home development at a time when densification is the only path out of this region’s critical housing shortage.
I currently rent a condominium from a private landlord in downtown Vancouver, despite the fact that my kids go to school on the North Shore. The lifestyle the North Shore affords is unique in the region, and in Canada as a whole. Unfortunately, it’s now the exclusive domain of the very wealthy, fortunate enough to have secured their place in houses long before my generation had the means to do the same.
This incumbent generation is now fighting to keep out the very type of developments that might give my peers the housing security we desperately lack. Zoning should not be used as a stick to beat back the less fortunate, but all too often that is precisely how these municipal council rezoning processes are being exploited by neighbourhood groups.
Reduced parking and “irreversible aesthetic damage” – two of the reasons cited on one such neighbourhood group’s flyer – are not sufficient reason to deny housing to residents.
Last November, after two days of massive neighbourhood resistance (including said flyer), District of West Vancouver council approved what will be its first new rental housing development in more than 40 years. The Hollyburn Properties development at 125 21st St. preserves a 126-unit tower already on the site, even though the developer could make far more money tearing it down and building out condos for sale from $2,000 per square foot – the market rate in West Vancouver at present.
Hollyburn’s new infill project is family friendly with 24 two- and three-bedroom units (out of 41 total units), as well as accessibility features designed to meet the needs of an aging population.
West Vancouver, and the region as a whole, needs city councils to take a positive stance on gentle infill densification projects. Projects such as the Hollyburn development or the City of North Vancouver’s coach house plus secondary suite proposal for increasing single-family home density are small but vital steps in the right direction.
With rental vacancy rates at all-time lows, bidding wars among prospective renters, and “renovictions” putting many on the streets, there’s no better time for our municipal councils to allow new rental housing to be brought to market. It’s often difficult for councils to approve such projects in the face of vociferous neighbourhood groups, which is why we formed Abundant Housing Vancouver – to bring together those of us who need positive change in the residential housing market.
The best time to take action on housing affordability was 40 years ago. The second best time is now. Let’s support this project.
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