British Columbia

Jillian Skeet says Marine Gardens residents opposed to new condo development

Residents of an affordable housing complex that is being demolished to increase density around a CanadaLine station along the Cambie corridor are speaking out against the new development.

Residents of Marpole's Marine Gardens say they can't afford rent at the new condo towers

Marpole's Marine Gardens complex was once lauded as a model of family-friendly housing (courtesy Marpole Matters)

Residents of an affordable housing complex that is being demolished to increase density around a CanadaLine station along the Cambie corridor are speaking out against the new development.

Concord Pacific is proposing three towers at S.W. Marine Drive between Cambie and Yukon streets, where Marpole's Marine Gardens complex currently stands. One of the towers would be rental units.

Vancouver city council recently referred the project to a public hearing.

Model of urban design

When it was built in the 1970s, Marpole's Marine Gardens was considered the model of urban design. The 70-unit townhouse complex, with family-friendly courtyards, a daycare, and leafy walkways, served as a showcase when Vancouver hosted the 1976 UN Habitat forum.

"I think what makes it different is that it is very community oriented," said Jillian Skeet, who has lived at Marine Gardens for over a decade.

As compensation, Skeet said she's been offered a relocation plan that includes $8,500, four months of free rent, and assistance with moving expenses.

"The problem is when you look at what's out there, that amount of money wouldn't last very long in the Vancouver housing market," said Skeet.

"It's short-term assistance for a very long-term problem."

New rental rates 'not feasible' for current residents

Skeet pays $1,100 a month for a three-bedroom townhouse at Marine Gardens.

As is the case with all the current tenants, she's been offered offered the right to move back in when the project is completed, but at a rate that's almost twice as much as her current rent.

Residents are being offered a 20 per cent discount on rent. But because Concord Pacific will be able to apply rent increases as soon as the permit is approved, by the time tenants move in, that discount will only be about eight per cent.

"For most of us who live here, it simply is not feasible," said Skeet.

She said many of the residents are on disability assistance or have chronic health issues.

"For them, the stress of this situation is just debilitating," said Skeet.

She and other residents are looking at mounting a legal challenge against the city.

Fulfilling the Cambie corridor plan

Brian Jackson, Vancouver's manager of city planning, says redeveloping the property is in line with the city's goal of building high-density housing along major transit corridors like Cambie Street.

"Early on we looked at any potential for saving the townhouses and building high density around it," said Jackson. "We realized that in order to achieve the broader objective of locating people near transit that we would be looking for the replacement of this rental with new housing at this location."

He said the city will collect $10 million as a result of the development, which will go towards low-income housing along the Cambie corridor. This will include low-end market rentals, social housing and housing for homeless.

He said current residents were being offered a "generous" discount to live in the new development, and that the new rates will be more in line with standard rents in the city.

"The rents are in my opinion artificially low for the area and the type of housing that they have," said Jackson.

Jackson said two earlier open houses for the project garnered mixed feedback.

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