British Columbia

46 housing units approved for Little Mountain, a decade after hundreds of residents displaced

Little Mountain residents were promised in 2007 that they'd have the opportunity to move back into new units within just a couple of years — but, more than a decade later, less than a quarter of the social housing units have been replaced.

'We've destroyed a viable, successful community,' says former MLA of site that has sat mostly empty since 2007

Temporary modular housing is being built on a portion of the Little Mountain site, which is owned by development company Holborn. (Holborn Holdings Ltd)

The City of Vancouver has approved plans to open 46 units of temporary modular housing at the Little Mountain site, the latest instalment in a public housing saga stretching on for more than a decade.

David Chudnovsky was the NDP MLA for Vancouver-Kensington when the Little Mountain story began in 2007, when nearly 700 residents were displaced from the social housing site near Main Street and 33rd Avenue.

"This latest chapter in the tragedy of Little Mountain made me think back to how crazy this had been over the last 11 years," he told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

At the time, Little Mountain residents were promised they'd have the opportunity to move back into new units within just a couple of years — but, years later, less than a quarter of the social housing units have been replaced.

Chudnovsky, who's now an activist with the Vancouver municipal party OneCity, says the city should be doing more.

"I'm very supportive of the temporary modular housing but my criticism would be that 46 units ... is not nearly enough," he said.

There had previously been 224 homes on the site.

The six-hectare Little Mountain site had sat largely empty since the controversial demolition of the existing buildings in 2009. (Holborn/City of Vancouver)

Units planned

In 2013, B.C. Housing sold the lot to the development company Holborn, which has developed buildings like the Trump Tower in Vancouver. Since then, the site has sat largely empty except for some social housing units opened in 2015.  

"We've destroyed a viable, successful community," Chudnovsky said.

The money from the sale of the land went to building social housing around the province, including roughly 1,500 units at 13 sites in Vancouver.

The Little Mountain site is eventually expected to have a mixture of permanent social housing developments as well as market housing and commercial retail space. 

But Chudnovsky faults both the provincial government for not doing more to protect "an asset of the people of British Columbia" and the City of Vancouver for not using their power to approve developments and zoning.  

"They could have demanded from the developer that it be a different kind of project," he said.

"They could have looked for other developers to do a project that makes more sense for the city given the crisis of homelessness and the crisis of affordability."

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

'Beyond the city's control'

Susan Haid, assistant director of planning for Vancouver South, says social housing is a priority but, as a regulator, there is only so much the city can do.

"We acknowledge this had been a very long haul, a lot of this has really been beyond the city's control and led by the landowner," Haid said. 

CBC contacted Holborn for comment but has not received a response. B.C. Housing says it is working on a request for a comment.

The temporary units are set to become available in October and will remain open for three years.

With files from The Early Edition.

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