Vancouver's Little Mountain housing plans finally on display

Most of the land at Vancouver's Little Mountain has been sitting vacant for six years, but there are signs new housing for the site may be on the way.

Could still be 2 years before construction begins

Vancouver residents hear about development plans for Little Mountain at the first of two planned open houses. (CBC)

It's been seven years since private developer Holborn was chosen to breath new life into Little Mountain, the city's first large-scale social housing project. The site has been sitting nearly empty since more than 200 units were torn down in 2009.

On Saturday the first of two open houses for the new project planned for the site was held.

"We want to get this delivered to the community as soon as possible," said Susan Haid, an associate director of planning with the City of Vancouver. "It has involved an extensive public process and applicant process."

Holborn's proposal includes several buildings between three and 12 storeys high. 234 social housing units would be built and owned by BC Housing.

The company would also provide an additional 48 units of affordable rental housing, which would be managed by the city.

In addition, more than 1,400 units built on the 15.2 acre site would be market housing, which Holborn says would range in price.

Phil Scott, director of development for Holborn, says plans for Little Mountain will include 'different affordability options.' (CBC)

"Between some of the smaller buildings, wood-frame and concrete there are a wide range of products and different affordability options," said Phil Scott, director of development for Holborn.

The plans also include:

  • A city-owned building with the new Little Mountain Neighbourhood House.
  • A childcare facility.
  • A new city street and extension of 35th Avenue.
  • A new community plaza and public park.

Affordability questioned

Some area residents took issue with the proposal, questioning its affordability despite the commitment to social housing.

"We don't think affordable housing is coming into this project, from everything we've seen there is nothing there," said Allan Buium, chair of Riley Park South Cambie Community Vision Group.

An image from Holborn's website showing plans for the development of the 15.2 acre Little Mountain site. (Holborn)

That concern is echoed by long-time community resident David Vaisbord.

"Little Mountain is a tragedy because we are losing the support for low income people of B.C. and replacing it with market condos," he said.

According to the City of Vancouver's website, Little Mountain became home to Vancouver's first large-scale modern social housing project in 1954.

"For over 50 years, Little Mountain was home to a vibrant, creative, and active community," it said.

Social housing at Little Mountain was initially managed by the federal government and then passed onto the province in 2007. It was sold to Holborn for redevelopment in 2013.

Allan Buium, chair of Riley Park South Cambie Community Vision Group says the project proposed by Holborn will not offer appropriate affordable housing. (CBC)

Saturday's open house was the first one after the developer submitted its rezoning application to the city this fall.

The second open house will be on Dec. 3, 2015.

In August, 2014, Holborn did complete a 53-unit complex for seniors like Ingrid Steenhuizen who said she refused to leave Little Mountain until something was built.

"It's where so many of our family memories were, so it's been a challenge," she said, adding that keeping the pressure on Holborn and the city has taken a toll on her and others.

"I have lost a number of friends, some were seniors, some ... had no health issues before all of this started and it didn't matter if they were ones that stayed or one that moved."

If Holborn's plans are approved, it will take at least two years before construction begins.  

with files from the CBC's Tina Lovgreen

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