Minister touts planned rental housing project as affordable housing model for the province
Approved in 2018, development along Broadway corridor promises 200 affordable, 58 below market units by 2025
B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon showed off a key purpose-built rental housing project on Wednesday in Vancouver, which his government hopes to replicate in order to address the city's housing crisis.
First approved in 2018, the high-rise development at West Broadway and Birch Street, the site of a former Denny's restaurant, is under construction and set to deliver a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom homes by 2025.
Fifty-eight of the units will be below market rent, while the other 200 are designed to be affordable households for residents with middle incomes.
Kahlon was joined by George Heyman, the NDP MLA for Vancouver–Fairview, Coun. Mike Klassen and the head of the development company behind the project, Jameson Development Corp.
The group drew attention to how two levels of government and the private sector came together to maximize the build's ability to supply much-needed, affordable housing in the neighbourhood.
Keeping people in neighbourhoods
Kahlon said since becoming housing minister, the two complaints he hears most often from voters are wanting to have housing in neighbourhoods where they can raise children and wanting to stay in those communities as they age.
"And so how we address the challenges we have in front of us is through partnerships, and that is what we are seeing here, right?" he said. "And that is what we are going to see throughout the province."
The development at 2528 Birch St. is a partnership between the province, through B.C. Housing's Housing Hub program, Jameson Development Corp. and the City of Vancouver.
The province is providing nearly $165 million in low-interest financing for the project, which will be repaid by Jameson Development Corp, while the developer provided $81 million for the project. The City of Vancouver provided development cost levy waivers valued at approximately $3.1 million.
Developers under schemes such as this must commit to passing construction cost savings on to prospective tenants.
"Thanks to results-focused programs like these, our family is creating new, affordable rental homes for more families in Vancouver faster than if we were to do it on our own," said Tony Pappajohn, the president of Jameson Development Corp.
WATCH | CBC's Anita Bathe discusses B.C.'s approach to affordable housing with Andy Yan of SFU:
News conference ambushed
The news conference had barely begun when two men, one holding a Vancouver Tenants Union sign, the other in sunglasses and wearing a Vancouver Tenants Union T-shirt, stood in front of Kahlon at a rostrum and took over the news conference for about five minutes.
The speaker, who later identified himself as Mazdak Gharibnavaz, admonished the NDP government for failing to adequately deliver on housing for the most vulnerable in the province and for not protecting renters from being evicted.
"You don't have a plan to protect us," he said.
A recent report from researchers at the University of British Columbia found that renters in British Columbia face the highest eviction rates in Canada, through no fault of their own.
Kahlon patiently listened to the speaker's presentation before moving on with his news conference.
When Klassen had a chance to speak, he thanked the Vancouver Tenants Union for showing up to the event.
"We do have amazing stresses on our system right now with regards to rental housing, and I think this is part of the solution, working together with the province."
Kahlon was asked by reporters how long it would be until the province could catch up on acute housing deficits faced by many residents.
"I don't have a crystal ball to tell you when the housing crisis will be solved, but every day I feel the urgency to get more results for British Columbians," he said.
WATCH | B.C. Housing Ministry Ravi Kahlon speaks about the difficulty solving B.C.'s housing crisis:
In 2020, council approved changes over the height and scope of the Birch Street development to allow 11 extra storeys, making the building top out at 86 metres.
At the time, it was the tallest building planned for the West Broadway corridor. Since then, a development has been approved for 1477 W. Broadway that will be built to 39 storeys, topping out at 125 metres.
At the time, the city said approving the Birch Street project would result in 200 market rental units and 58 affordable units, with average starting rents at $950 for a studio and $2,000 for a three-bedroom unit.
Proponents argued the project would deliver much-needed affordable housing in the area, whereas opponents said a building so tall would set a bad precedent for the area's neighbourhood plan and increase market rates.
The lot, which formerly housed a Denny's restaurant, sold for $26 million in 2016 to the Jameson Development Corp.
- A previous version of this story stated that the development at Birch Street and West Broadway would include the tallest high-rise on West Broadway. In fact, another, taller, high-rise has since been approved at 1477 W. Broadway.Jun 08, 2023 8:38 AM PT
With files from Justin McElroy