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Speaking notes: 1477 West Broadway
We need market and below-market rental housing, not just condos.
The public hearing for the 1477 West Broadway rezoning is continuing tonight, and may continue on Thursday April 21. (Ginger Gosnell-Myers: “It’s easier to elect a pope than to approve a small rental apartment building in the city of Vancouver.”)
I spoke at tonight’s public hearing.
Hi, my name is Russil Wvong. I support this rezoning. I'm a long-time Vancouver resident and homeowner, and a volunteer with Forward Together. I don't work in development or real estate, and I'm not calling on behalf of anyone else. In particular, I'm describing my personal views as a resident of Vancouver, not those of Forward Together.
The reason I'm calling is that housing in Vancouver is maddeningly scarce and expensive, making us all worse off. If approved, the high-rise at the new Broadway and Granville Skytrain station will provide 170 badly needed market rental homes. Renting in a purpose-built rental building like this one means you can have secure housing, without the insecurity that comes with renting a condo or basement suite, and without needing to be so rich that you can take on the risk of owning an expensive condo at today's prices. The building will also add about 50 affordable rental homes (affordable for household incomes between $38,000 and $80,000), which are even more desperately needed.
Plus the new building includes a grocery store, so that people in the neighbourhood can more easily do their grocery shopping. Finally, there's zero displacement of renters, since this project is replacing an office building.
I know that there's people who are not happy about the height of the building, and would prefer something smaller, even at such a central location. But allowing taller buildings is how we get more rental housing, not just condos. Michael Mortensen talks about how projects need "Vitamin D," density, to make them happen. People are willing to pay more for condos than for rentals, roughly 50% more, so a rental building like this needs to be roughly 50% higher than a condo building would be. Similarly, including 20% affordable rentals, which provide less income than market rentals, also means allowing more density.
Another issue that's often raised is environmental impact. Compact cities are one of the best things we can do to fight climate change. There's plenty of people who want to live close to work, trading space for time. Then they can get around by taking transit, walking, or biking, instead of living further out and spending more time driving to and from work, fighting traffic, and burning fossil fuels.
What I find really maddening about the situation is, everyone agrees that housing is scarce and expensive, but when it comes time to actually build more housing, like this project, there's always people who seek to oppose and delay it. This opposition is obviously sincere and heartfelt. I understand that it's natural to fear the unknown, but the only way we can fix the problem of not enough housing is to actually build more.
As a result of decades of not building enough, we now have a huge mismatch between jobs and housing. A friend who works in operations management at a hospital says that the last time they had to hire an anesthesiologist, it took a very long time, because nobody could afford to live reasonably close to the hospital, even on a high salary. They did eventually find someone, but it took 18 months, reducing operating-room capacity in the meantime. As you can imagine, it's also extremely difficult to hire nurses. The scarcity of housing is having a real impact on our health-care system.
As you can see from the correspondence, with over 300 comments both in support and opposed, and from the speakers so far, there's an ongoing battle between people who want more housing, because it's so badly needed, and people who are adamantly opposed. In this situation, consensus is not practical. We can't build more housing and not build more housing at the same time.
Council will need to decide whether to accept or reject this rezoning, based on your weighing of the costs and the benefits. I hope you think of more housing as a benefit, not a cost. And I hope you're willing to say yes, this is a high-rise, and it's going to add a lot of housing to Broadway and Granville; but it's housing that we badly need.
Thank you for your time.