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A chimney is toppled by a wrecker's backhoe at the Little Mountain housing complex in Vancouver. ((CBC))

Demolition work has begun on one of Vancouver's oldest public housing projects — the landmark Little Mountain development — ending a years-long long campaign to save it.

Several of the 224 units fell to wreckers' backhoes as protesters carrying placards held a vigil on the sidewalk of 33 Avenue east at Ontario Street.

"It's nothing short of criminal to be destroying solid, well-built homes with the knowledge that nothing will be built here for many years to come," said Kia Salomons, spokeswoman for Community Advocates for Little Mountain.

Built in 1954, Little Mountain was once home to about 700 people in 37 buildings.

Most of the residents have moved to other social housing developments in the city, although a handful of people still legally occupy a small corner of Little Mountain.

Once the entire six-hectare site is cleared, the province's plan is to sell it to developer Holborn Properties, who will build a mix of market- and social housing.

Holborn has promised that the priority for subsidized rental units will go to former Little Mountain residents.

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Little Mountain activist Kia Salomons says subsidized housing is disappearing in Vancouver. ((CBC))

"They'll come back to a better unit, definitely," Holborn CEO Joo Kim Tiah told CBC News Friday. "I can almost 100 per cent guarantee it."

But Tiah also said the new project is not expected to be completed for five to 10 years.

"Affordable housing keeps disappearing and not getting built," said Salomons.

Corrections

  • The replacement housing project will take five to 10 years to complete. A previous version of the story said the project would take 10 years.
    Nov 12, 2009 7:30 AM PT