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Developer gives up on building 22 units of social housing in the Downtown East Side
Project had a development permit, couldn't get a building permit
Frances Bula, writing in 2021 about social housing projects that the city of Vancouver had approved, but hadn’t been built, gave 436 East Hastings as an example. Many social-housing announcements and approvals in Vancouver, not so much getting built.
436 East Hastings
This is one of two sites in the Downtown Eastside where owners or non-profits proposed new “skinny” buildings in a zone where the city has special restrictions on height, density and, in some cases, condos that would be sold rather than rented. The proposal was for 22 units, similar to another site nearby at 545 Cordova. But Lookout Housing & Health Society, which worked with the city and owners on both sites, had to give up on them because BC Housing did not want to provide money for sites with so few units. The 436 East Hastings site is for sale for close to $2-million. The Cordova site is sitting empty.
Perdip Moore of PD Moore Homes, which builds detached houses, duplexes, and laneway houses, says that he decided to buy the 436 East Hastings site and use his own money to build the social housing.
Moore said he bought the empty lot at 436 East Hastings while his wife was pregnant and the couple thought it would be a good way to give back to the community, given their business had seen 23 years of success.
“When our child entered Kindergarten, at that point we kind of gave up on that portion of this venture,” recounted Moore.
The project had a development permit, but not a building permit. Daily Hive describes the development permit application: 25-ft-wide social and rental housing building coming to East Hastings.
Global says that the development was approved:
In 2019, the city of Vancouver’s Development Permit Board approved an application for a seven-storey mixed use building at 436 East Hastings with ground level retail and 14 units of social housing plus eight units of market rental.
The 64 per cent social housing and 36 per cent market rental complied with the 60 per cent social housing and 40 per cent secured market rental requirements for new projects built beyond existing zoning in the DTES Oppenheimer District.
But even after getting a development permit for the overall project, you still need to get a building permit to start building. Moore couldn’t get the building permit. Moore’s side of the story:
PD Moore Homes Inc. said it offered to build 100 per cent social housing or 22 micro-units with no government funding. Moore also provided emails to Global News showing he had a non-profit partner willing to rent and operate the site once built.
“The city refused and said that what they want is the non-profit to be on title before they issue a building permit, which is essentially just putting the cart before the horse,” Moore said.
Moore’s now given up:
Moore said he bought the property for $900,000 and has spent more than $400,000 on consulting fees and other expenses for different proposals to the city to make the project work.
He said he has since submitted a new development permit application to build four market rental units under the area’s existing zoning.
We purchased vacant land on Hastings & Main 6 years ago. On the left was our proposal to build 22 units used as Social Housing. On the right is our new proposal to build 4 rental units. Our initial proposal was within the city guidelines but there's too much red tape to build a social housing project. So we decided after 6 years to take the "easier" route and make a non-social housing application. Until we have people at City hall who make realistic policies, Vancouver will never solve the housing crisis. We are a private developer who attempted to build housing in the Downtown East Side with no public funding and couldn't get approved. What's wrong with this picture?
To editorialize a bit, this is a striking example of the municipal approval bottleneck. We have people who want to live in Vancouver, and we have people who want to build housing for them. The problem is, we make it really hard to get approval!