British Columbia

Housing activists mark 10-year anniversary of Little Mountain saga

About 40 housing advocates assembled on the site of the Little Mountain public housing complex on Saturday to reveal a plaque marking the vacant lot where new housing is promised.

'Look at the big hole. There's still no building,' says housing activist

Housing activists unveiled this plaque at the former site of the Little Mountain public housing complex in Vancouver on Saturday April, 8, 2017. (CBC)

About 40 people gathered in Vancouver Saturday at the former site of the Little Mountain public housing complex to mark what they described as a sombre anniversary.

The gathering marked 10 years since the social housing complex was slated to be redeveloped and hundreds of residents of the 224-unit complex told to move out.

At the time, many were told they could move back when a newer building complex was constructed. But today most of the land sits empty.

"They told us last year building was imminent," said Linda Shuto, a member of Community Advocates for Little Mountain or CALM.

'Holburn has sat on this property for 10 years, and you can imagine how much money they've made in the escalation of property [value] since it was bought, ' says Linda Shuto with Community Advocates for Little Mountain. (CBC)

"It is now 2017, 10 years have passed. [The] building is not imminent. Look at the big hole. There's still no building, still no replacement of the 224 social housing units."

Shuto and her group unveiled a plaque at the site at 37th Avenue and Ontario Street,, which reads: "Let us never forget, The Rich Coleman Vacant Lot 2007-2017."

Coleman is the provincial minister responsible for housing. Members of CALM blame him along with Premier Christy Clark for delays with the project along with property owner Holburn.

The Little Mountain site at 155 East 37th Avenue remains a vacant lot with garbage and damaged trees. (CBC)

Little Mountain became home to Vancouver's first large-scale modern social housing project in 1954 and was initially managed by the federal government and then passed onto the province in 2007 before it was sold to Holborn.

On Saturday, activists like Shuto reflected about the urgency they say was placed upon former tenants to move off the property to make way for demolition.

"They were bullied and pushed out of their home and told, if they didn't go now, they might not get another place to live," said Shuto.

"And so people were terrified."

The six-hectare Little Mountain has been empty since the demolition of the existing buildings in 2009. (Holborn/City of Vancouver)

The new proposal to replace the 224 public housing units includes:

  • Three 12-storey mostly residential buildings.
  • 1,400 market value homes.
  • 234 social housing units.
  • a 69-space childcare.
  • 48 units of affordable housing adjacent to Main Street.
  • A new community plaza and public park.
  • A new city street and an extension of 35th Avenue.

'Making progress'

Last summer, the process of rezoning the site began, but Holborn has yet to file development permit applications for any new buildings according to the City of Vancouver.

Still, officials with the company say the project is proceeding.

"We've been making progress behinds the scenes so to speak but not on the site," said Holborn director of development Phillip Scott.

Scott says he expects site preparation work for the first phase the project to begin by the end of this year.

with files from Karin Larsen.