British Columbia

5-storey rental apartment approved for Kitsilano

A controversial rental apartment proposed for the heart of Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood is going ahead. 

Project opposed by most neighbours, but councillors say the below-market rental units are needed

A rendering of the proposed five-storey building at the corner of Larch and West Second Avenue. (City of Vancouver)

A controversial rental apartment proposed for the heart of Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood is going ahead. 

In its last act of 2019, city council voted 8-3 to allow rezoning of a plot of land at West Second Avenue and Larch Street to allow a five-storey building. 

It will replace St. Mark's Anglican Church, leased to community groups in recent years after the church stopped using it due to declining attendance. The entire building will be rental, with 20 per cent targeted to moderate incomes, ranging from a studio for $950/month to $2,000 for a three-bedroom unit.

The proposal is part of the city's Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program, which gives developers more benefits and eases restrictions around parking and unit space if they agree to set one-fifth of rentals at below market rates.   

Several councillors argued it was a key element of the city's goal of adding 2,000 market rental units of housing per year, which it has struggled to achieve.

"We have a less than one per cent vacancy rate. We need rental," said Rebecca Bligh. "There's no displacement here. Zero. We don't often see that." 

The apartment is in a block dominated by single-family homes and townhouses, but across the street from a part of Kitsilano that has plenty of apartments. (City of Vancouver)

Opposition from neighbours

Councillors heard from dozens of speakers over two days of public hearing, along with receiving hundreds of letters, with most nearby residents opposed to the project. 

Common complaints included the majority of units not being affordable, the apartment being out of place with the single-family homes in the rest of the block, possible traffic and congestion concerns and some of the units not having any windows. 

In response to concerns, council passed several amendments requiring the moderate-income units be spread throughout the apartment, and the developer continue to work with city staff over parking and size concerns.

Those changes weren't enough for councillors Colleen Hardwick, Adriane Carr and Jean Swanson, who voted no.

"We're giving density … and we're not getting anything near the affordability we need with this project," said Swanson, who said she worried it would further gentrify the neighbourhood.

"Our job is to manage, not promote development. So why are we promoting development to the detriment of our residents?" said Hardwick.

But most councillors felt the final proposal struck the right balance. 

"Housing is a right," said Christine Boyle, "and these new neighbours have every right to be there."

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