Friday, February 23, 2024

Over 1,600 new social housing units proposed in east Van

Proposed Skeena Terrace redevelopment could include over 1,900 social housing units, along with daycare, retail and other amenities.

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Staff at city hall are recommending moving to the next phase of a redevelopment proposal that would see an almost 10-fold increase in low-income housing units at one of Vancouver’s first social housing projects.

The proposed redevelopment of Skeena Terrace in east Vancouver would include more than 1,900 social housing units, up from the 230 currently on-site, along with a 74-space child care facility and other amenities. Buildings would range from four to 36 storeys.

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Staff have recommended the rezoning application, submitted by B.C. Housing, go to a public hearing, the next step in a years’-long process.

The application calls for development over several years in part to minimize displacement of the roughly 600 tenants currently living there. Current tenants would have the right of first refusal on new units.

The city has required that at least half of the new units be suitable for family housing and have two or more bedrooms.

The large site is at 2298 Cassiar St. in the Hastings Sunrise neighbourhood. Skeena Terrace was built in the 1960s and B.C. Housing has said due to the age of the buildings there’s a need for extensive, continuing maintenance and repairs.

One-third of the units in the new development would be subsidized for low-income households, so rents would be no more than 30 per cent of gross household income. While the remaining units “can be rented at up to and including market rents,” according to the staff report, the goal is to reserve two-thirds of the units for low-income housing.

In a statement, B.C. Housing said a public hearing is being planned for the spring.

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“B.C. Housing has been working with residents from 32 of the building’s units to support Phase 1 of the relocation since 2023. Tenant drop-in meetings take place on-site once a month,” the statement said.

“All households which need to move will be offered secondary housing and relocation support through B.C. Housing, and no one will become unhoused as part of this process. B.C. Housing will pay for moving costs for tenants, including utility reconnection (telephone, cable, etc.) and hiring movers.”

B.C. Housing said a list of commitments to tenants can be found online at: https://letstalkhousingbc.ca/vancouver-skeena-terrace.

According to a 2022 housing report from the city, roughly 86,000 Vancouver households are in need of affordable or adequate housing. That figure is expected to grow by 50,000 households in the next 10 years.

Aerial view of the current housing development at Skeena Terrace.
Aerial view of the current housing development at Skeena Terrace. Photo by B.C. Housing

The site is also home to “a significant number of mature trees,” the report notes, calling them “one of the defining features of the site” and something that should be preserved.

The original 1960s’ landscape design was the work of Cornelia Oberlander, a German-born landscape architect who contributed to the designs of Robson Square, Library Square and the Vancouver Law Courts, among other sites.

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Planning for the surrounding neighbourhoods between the Rupert and Renfrew SkyTrain stations is currently underway, according to the city, and will include recommendations on land use and rezoning.

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