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Rezoning approved for social housing on Grandview Highway South east of Nanaimo
Funded by BC Housing, providing 64 shelter-rate studio apartments
At Tuesday evening’s public hearing, Vancouver city council unanimously approved two rezonings, one for seniors housing at Granville and 47th (6151-6261 Granville and 1511 West 47th), one for social housing on Grandview Highway South east of Nanaimo (2518-2540 Grandview Highway South). The Grandview social housing was opposed by the Italian Cultural Centre (at Grandview and Slocan), and the final motion was amended to require closer engagement with them.
On Reddit, someone commented on the Grandview social housing:
These social housing developments should have costs built in that clean the neighbourhood of needles and other drug paraphernalia in a one block radius (at least) as it's clear they bring this into the neighbourhoods.
Makes sense to me. (You don't want anyone to end up significantly worse off, and you certainly don't want the social housing to end up failing, as happened with the Travelodge on Gorge Road in Victoria.)
To me, there's two main reasons for the city to approve this rezoning. One, the province is putting up the money to build and to operate the housing, which is tens of millions of dollars that the city doesn't have to pay. Two, when social housing doesn't get built, the people who would have lived there don't disappear - they end up living in parks and on the street, which seems like it's worse for everyone.
I was listening to the public hearing, and at least a couple of the speakers noted that there's already been a significant homeless presence in the neighbourhood, with people in RVs parked on the north side of Grandview Highway, adjacent to Van Tech. (My bike route to and from work takes me past this area, on the Central Valley Greenway.)
There were 77 written comments in opposition, mostly submitted over the weekend, which is a lot. But in the end I think there were fewer than 10 people who spoke in opposition at the public hearing.
It sounds like people's concerns are primarily about the operation of the social housing (who lives there and how well it runs), which is the responsibility of the provincial government via BC Housing - BC Housing is paying the operator. If there's big issues with the way the building runs after it's built, the appropriate level of government to lean on is the provincial government. It's the role of the local MLA to communicate people's concerns to the province and push for an effective response.
The director of the Italian Cultural Centre said something along these lines: "We're not saying don't do it, we're just saying to do it right." I think they should be focusing on the following:
Tenant selection. There's 64 apartments in the building; you don't want to have too many of the hardest-to-house in one place, as opposed to people who are just unable to afford housing because it's so expensive and their incomes are low. (I've heard that this was the big issue with Marguerite Ford Apartments, which has 147 apartments - the city wanted to get homeless people off the streets before the 2010 Olympics and so they put way too many of the hardest-to-house in one place.)
Tenant safety, which will depend on how effective the operator is at enforcing their own rules. From talking to someone who used to live in the temporary modular housing in Marpole, I think if there's issues with security and safety (e.g. people who are intoxicated, yelling, and aggressive), it's going to affect the tenants themselves first.
Complex-care housing, which is more institutional and thus more suited to people who are hard to house. The province announced this about a year ago. The more complex-care housing there is, the less likely it is that you'll get a lot of hard-to-house people in social-housing buildings like this one. So it'd be good to push the province to follow through. David Eby is also considering expansion of involuntary treatment for mental health and drug addiction.
64 supportive units for the homeless proposed near SkyTrain Renfrew Station. Kenneth Chan, Daily Hive, February 2022.
City Council set to decide on two new supportive housing buildings in East Vancouver. Kenneth Chan, February 14, 2023. Rezoning for the second building, at 1925 Southeast Marine Drive, was postponed to February 21.
Vancouver approves supportive housing amid opposition from East Vancouver community centre. Simon Little, Global News, February 15, 2023.
On not wanting anyone to end up significantly worse off: see section 3 of Cost-benefit analysis as an expression of liberal neutrality, by Joseph Heath.