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Central Lonsdale in flux as city backs 64-unit rental

Council exploring ways to ease rental crisis
North Van construction

North Vancouver City council approved a 64-unit building on 12th Street that will include six units of affordable housing as well as a variety of unit sizes. The final vote was 6-1 with Coun. Don Bell opposing the development.

More than a dozen speakers at the June 25 meeting spoke in favour of the project, citing the difficulties of finding rental housing in North Vancouver and highlighting the neighbourhood of Lonsdale as a desirable place to live. A few spoke against it with concerns about its height overshadowing other buildings and more pressure on parking.

Mayor Darrell Mussatto pointed out that most of the rental stock in North Vancouver was built in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s with financial incentives from the federal government.

“That’s all gone now so the municipalities have had to step in,” he added. Because of their age, the older rental stock also will need significant amounts of money for upkeep, he said.

As part of the public hearing, one resident spoke in support of the project and called it a “creative building design.”

“A lot of the rest of the neighbourhood, it will be transitioning, it will be changing and we can look at this as perhaps a building that will pioneer the rest of the neighbourhood,” he said.

Council has the discretion to add density to the building. In this case, the developer has dedicated the entire building for rental and six units will be “mid-market” rental, which means 10 per cent below the 10-year rental average rates as determined by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. for North Vancouver for 10 years.

The final rental rates for these six units will be determined upon completion of the building, but examples provided by the city show that 2017 mid-market rents were set at $1,098 for a one-bedroom unit, $1,426 for a two-bedroom unit and $1,820 for a three-bedroom unit.

Currently, there is a two- and three-story apartment building on the site at 127-129 East 12th St., with 26 units. The proposed building will have 64 units including eight three-bedroom apartments; there will be 23 wheelchair accessible apartments.

The building will be multi-layered with townhomes on the south side and a five-storey wing on the east side; the west and north sides will be six storeys high. The plans include amenities on the roof as well as gardening space on various levels. An indoor amenity room is included in the plans.

Mid-market report
The City of North Vancouver is exploring how to get more affordable rental housing for locals, and on Monday, council received a presentation from Coriolis Consulting to look at options.

The consultants looked at four sites in North Vancouver and concluded that, in a strata apartment, keeping the mid-market units at 10 per cent was the most viable option for developers, but increasing it to 20 per cent made the project not feasible.

In rental apartments, the scenarios were even tighter, but redevelopment of current rental buildings would provide the best opportunity to include mid-market units.

Various scenarios were laid out for council on having zero, 10 or 20 per cent of rental housing as mid-market housing by Blair Erb of Coriolis Consulting in a report entitled Financial Analysis: Inclusion of Mid Market Rental Units in New Apartment Projects.

The consultant’s conclusion was that asking for more than 10 per cent of units in a building to be mid-market is “challenging.”

“Rental development is quite challenging financially, we called it marginal … .” said Erb. “The viability is difficult so we’re just suggesting proceed with caution on any rental policy.”

The report outlines that bonus density is needed to produce mid-market rental, otherwise it’s not viable; the report also states that having mid-market units depends on how much the bonus density is and what the trade-off is – that is, how much of a community benefit contribution is needed.

But requiring mid-market units in buildings will reduce the land values and therefore fewer development sites will be turned into mid-market units.

Reducing the community benefit contribution and adding bonus density can help increase the viability of these developments.

Commenting on the presentation, Coun. Rod Clark said he wants to see a rental pool built up in the city.

“In places like Vienna, Austria, they’ve been doing this for a hundred years and as much as 30 to 40 per cent of rental accommodation is below the average,” Clark said. “It’s affordable housing.”