British Columbia

Social housing to have separate entrance to Vancouver high-rise

A new building in Vancouver's West End neighbourhood is getting some attention because of its segregated entrances for condo residents, and those living in social housing units.

New York City, Seattle considering banning so-called 'poor doors'

Plans for the new building include 28 units of social housing and 63 condominiums. (West End Neighbours)

A new building in Vancouver's West End neighbourhood is getting some attention because of its segregated entrances for condo residents and those living in social housing units.

The West End Neighbours community group says the market-priced condo units and social housing units for the 19-storey high-rise for 1171 Jervis Street will also be branded differently at the entrances and have separate amenities.

The development permit was approved Monday by city staff. 

The development application shows the entrance for the 28 units designated as social housing will be on Davie Street, while residents of the 63 market units will enter on Jervis Street.

The building has become a flash point in the neighbourhood because a public hearing was not required for the project under city regulations implemented in 2013, according to the group.

It won't be the first multi-use building in Vancouver to have separate entrances, but the proposal comes at a time where cities like New York and Seattle consider banning what some have called  'poor doors.'

Common practice

The City of Vancouver said it doesn't track how many buildings have separate entrances.

But multi-use buildings with separate entrances are not uncommon in Vancouver, said architect Michael Geller.

"To date, most of the buildings I am aware of do have separate entrances, lobbies, amenity rooms, etc. This includes Woodwards, Le Hermitage development, and others that include significant social housing and market housing components," said Geller.

It can be more difficult to sell market-priced units without a separate entrance, Geller said.

"The people with more expensive units don't want to mix with the ones in the lower, more affordable units. The real issue is people who are paying more generally feel entitled to access more amenities and lobbies than the social housing units," Geller said "They [those who pay full price] think it's reasonable for them to be separated."

But it's not just about marketing, Geller said.

"I think there can be practical management operations if you are trying to house people who were formally homeless or hard to house." 

Segregation concerns

Randy Helten, who runs the blog, worries what will happen if the practice continues here.

"There should be a public discussion about how we want to design the physical structure of our city and our buildings. Do we want to have permanently in a place a separation between your homes based on your income level?" he said.

"You can actually see it turning into separate or segregated society based on your economic level in the same building."   

Twitter: @CityHallWatchVAN