Little Mountain 15.3 acre housing site Public Hearing (July 19th): The back story of a tragedy

Little Mountain Housing

(Update: This hearing ended in one night after 18 speakers, and the final discussion and decision by City Council is scheduled for Regular Council on July 26, 2016.)

The rezoning of the 15.3 acre Little Mountain Housing site will be reviewed at a Public Hearing scheduled for 6pm on Tuesday, July 19th. (Update: Documentary maker David Vaisbord will be interviewed on Global TV at 5 pm and 6 pm shows today – July 19 – on this topic.)

LM protest 9-11 1811cThis rezoning will be a major milestone in the ongoing saga surrounding the redevelopment of the former BC Housing site.

Ned Jacobs has provided an excellent summary of the history behind the sale of the Little Mountain site in a previous post.

The decision to demolish the social housing building stock in 2009 generated much controversy and it resulted in the displacement of over 200 households that made up this community. A single 5-storey building with 53 replacement social housing units was opened in 2015. The site located northeast of Main Street and East 37th Avenue remains otherwise barren.

The rezoning calls for the construction of approximately 1,573 housing units to be delivered over 5 phases of development. A total of 229 social housing units are proposed to be delivered on the site during the first two phases of the project (on top of the 53 units that were delivered in 2015). (But the City encourages 20% of new developments to be social housing. For that minimum, we would need to see at least 315 new social housing units under this rezoning. Why is the City not pushing for that target?)

The City is requiring that a minimum of 35% of the dwelling units must be suitable for families and contain two or more bedrooms. The rezoning plans also feature:

• a 69 space childcare facility
• 3046 m2 of commercial space
• a neighbourhood house (relocation)

The 14 new buildings planned for the site range from 6 to 12-storeys in height, with a maximum height of 37m or 121 feet. The IBI Group is the second architect to work on this project and they have incorporated a number of revisions to earlier proposals. The last revision from April 22, 2016 did not go to an Open House. The scale and layout may appear to be a cross between Olympic Village and Arbutus Walk.

The housing project had been transferred from the CMHC to BC Housing in 2007, at a nominal value of $1 (or a market value of $61 million). The redevelopment of the site was later announced in 2007. A title search revealed that the property had been sold to Holborn in 2013 with a market value of $87 million on the transfer agreement. There is very little transparency on the exact sale price and other agreements between BC Housing and Holborn. In hindsight, an open question is why was there a rush to demolish the affordable housing stock in 2009? Why did the City of Vancouver issue demolition permits without having a plan in place for the replacement buildings? What are the long-term impacts on the former residents of Little Mountain Housing? Could the residents have remained in most of these units until 2016 or later (when required for construction)?

Filmmaker David Vaisbord has extensively documented the Little Mountain Housing Project on the websites and In an interview on Roundhouse Radio on July 19 (hear full audio), when asked to summarize the story of this development to date, he gave one word: “tragic.” He also pointed out that in another country (United States) the way this project has been handled (demolition of social housing before ensuring reconstruction) would be illegal. Asked what needs to change to avoid a similar tragedy, he said that government needs to be more open and transparent — this deal was all done in secret. Vaisbord’s documentary is expected to be release later this year. He welcomes supporters for his Indiegogo crowd funding effort for the project.

The City’s webpage has details of the rezoning application.

Vancouver Sun: (19-Jul-2016)

Little Mountain Housing model


Little Mountain rezoning: We must do better (Jan 19, 2016)
Little Mountain and the sale of BC’s Jericho Lands (Dec 4, 2015)
Little Mountain Housing site ‘sold’ to Holborn for $87 million (Jan 13, 2014)
Little Mountain rezoning Open Houses Nov 28 & Dec 3 (Nov 20, 2015)
Little Mountain Redevelopment Stalled Again (June 17, 2014)

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