B.C. government using legislation to push through supportive housing project held up by lawsuit
Legal petition was filed against 129-unit building near future SkyTrain station after council approved it
A supportive housing project approved by Vancouver council last year but held up due to a lawsuit could soon be back on track thanks to the province.
Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon introduced legislation Tuesday that would circumvent a legal attempt to block the building of a 13-storey development at Arbutus Street and Eighth Avenue. The project is scheduled to create 129 single-occupancy units a block from the terminus to the Millennium Line extension, which is currently under construction.
"We are in a housing crisis in Vancouver and across the province with too many people sleeping outside. We cannot afford to wait for much of these homes to be built," he told the legislature.
The project was approved by council in August 2022 following six days of public hearings in a 6-3 vote.
But opponents of the project, who opposed both the height of the building and its location across the street from a school, filed a legal petition against the project in October, alleging the city failed to follow proper procedures in the rezoning process.
The adoption of the rezoning bylaw has been delayed as a result, but the provincial legislation seeks to effectively negate any result of that action.
"Despite any decision of a court to the contrary made before or after this section comes into force, the public hearing on the amending bylaw ... is conclusively deemed to have been validly held," reads the legislation.
"This bill, if passed, would position the city to proceed with the Arbutus project for construction to begin, scheduled this fall and provide critically needed housing for people in the community," said Kahlon.
LISTEN | Opposing group lays out its arguments in July of last year:
Local opposition but all-party support
The project has seen vocal opposition from many Kitsilano residents, who formed a group called the Kistilano Coalition that ended up filing the legal action.
"Government is basically overriding the voice of the community," said Cheryl Grant, a spokesperson for the group.
"This model of housing is not proven and is wrong and will cost billions of dollars to taxpayers."
At the same time, the province's announcement was applauded by all three parties in Vancouver council.
"We are thankful for the ongoing support from senior government partners to expedite the delivery of much-needed affordable housing in the city," said Ken Sim, the mayor of Vancouver.
"We look forward to continuing conversations and working with the community via the neighbourhood community advisory committee as the project progresses."
Green Party Coun. Pete Fry also expressed his support.
"Time is money, and inflationary costs and labour costs and everything else increases. The more time we're not putting shovels in the ground, the harder it is to get this to be a viable project."
OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle said the all-party support for the government's action was an important signal of where the city's housing priorities lie.
"We recognize the need for supportive housing and affordable housing and that it should be in every neighbourhood of Vancouver and that we can't afford further delays."
Grant said her group would review the legislation and consult with its lawyers before deciding next steps. But she expressed worry that the province could take a similar approach in other communities.
"This is basically saying we are not listening to the citizens, the people who built the communities live in the communities and support the communities," she said.