The District’s plan to create affordable housing options for everyone

By District Staff on Wednesday, Apr 6, 2022

A place to call home continues to be top of mind for many across the region.

Housing challenges for residents of the North Shore can affect the ability of individuals and families to meet their basic needs. It can also affect our community as a whole. Lack of housing can make it harder for businesses to attract and retain employees. Housing can also affect people’s quality of life and well-being when affordability creates distance between friends or families who can no longer live where they want.

District of North Vancouver Council recognizes the importance of affordable housing for all residents and in 2021 moved forward with several projects on municipal-owned land that illustrate this shared value.

“Housing is likely the biggest cost that people face in their day to day lives, and housing of all sorts, of all types is really what we want to achieve,” said Tina Atva, Manager, Community Planning at the District.

The District’s Official Community Plan (OCP) includes objectives to increase the housing and rental options for different needs, including modest to moderate-income earners, and housing to support residents experiencing homelessness.

The District’s Rental and Affordable Housing Strategy (RAHS) also outlines the following goals: to expand the diversity and supply of housing, specifically the supply of affordable housing and new rentals; to encourage maintaining or replacing existing affordable rentals, minimizing impacts for tenants; and to seek affordable housing partnerships.

Affordable housing projects underway

Early in its term, Council identified housing as a key issue and set direction on priority rental and social housing projects. It also directed staff to identify municipal-owned lands available for housing. Throughout 2021 Council heard from many residents how important affordable housing is and how potential housing projects may affect them. Council approved zoning and development permits for several projects that will provide housing for people who need it most.

Among these projects is the site at West 16th Street and Lloyd Avenue, which the District is working in partnership with BC Housing and RainCity Housing to develop. West 16th will feature 60 units of supportive housing for women and women-led households experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness. Supportive housing offers services such as life skills training, family and financial counselling, supports to help find employment, and connection and referral to community services and support groups.

Council approved the required rezoning for the project in May 2021. The project is a great way to assist women-led families, according to Atva, who says it will help them “come into secure housing and have other people and support in place to help them succeed.”

Council also issued development permits to two projects that will increase the number of options available for low to moderate-income households. A site located at 600 West Queens Road will feature 86-units of below-market rental housing after receiving a grant from BC Housing’s Community Housing Fund in June and a development permit in November. The District is collaborating on the project with Hollyburn Family Services Society, which has partnered with Sanford Affordable Housing Society on another project at 267 & 271 Orwell Street. The Salal Apartments will feature 90 units of below-market rental housing near Phibbs Exchange. All three projects will receive funding from BC Housing, are estimated for occupancy in 2024 and are located on District-owned land.

“That’s part of the most rewarding work that I have seen in my time here so far, just to see this amount of projects coming online,” Atva said. “Because we know there’s going to be people moving into them for whom it may be the first time in a long time that they have safe, secure, affordable housing.”

Potential sites for future affordable housing

Council concluded the year by directing staff to produce conceptual development scenarios for two more District-owned sites at 900 St Denis Avenue and at Mountain Highway and Hunter Street, both of which could potentially host affordable housing. While 2021 was a big year for housing on the North Shore, the District will continue taking action in 2022. Projects like the application for supportive housing on West 16th Street will continue to pursue necessary permits.  At the same time, 600 West Queens Road and 267 & 271 Orwell Street will look to progress toward construction, and Metro Vancouver Housing recently endorsed a District application to build affordable rental housing on a DNV-owned site in the Maplewood area.

While some projects are just beginning, others are almost complete. For example, Kiwanis Lynn Manor at 2555 Whiteley Court expects to welcome residents this year. A testament to the amount of time a project can take, the site received its development permit in 2018 and continued construction over the past year. The new six-story building will include 106 units of below-market rental housing for seniors beside the existing Kiwanis tower, which will feature four additional units on the ground floor.

During the 2018 municipal election, most District residents voted in favour of the referendum question asking if they supported investing $150 million to create 1,000 affordable housing units over the next decade. Since then, the District has contributed nearly $82 million to social and supportive housing.

Policy work to support housing diversity

The District worked throughout 2021 to make progress on policy directions that support the goal of meeting the housing needs of all residents:

  • May – Council approved an updated version of the Residential Tenant Relocation Assistance Policy, which helps tenants displaced due to redevelopment with relocation assistance, financial support and the right to return to the rental.
  • July – Staff completed a targeted OCP review following more than two years of work, and Council approved the OCP Action Plan, which will help guide the District as it works to achieve its vision.
  • September – The Rental, Social, and Affordable Housing Task Force presented Council recommendations developed over the last two years on innovative housing solutions.

While the policy work that happens behind the scenes isn’t always apparent to the community, it is necessary to ensure the District's plan for creating affordable, diverse housing options for people of all walks of life can be realized.

“We all need and deserve the right kind of housing,” Atva said. “These projects will really help people who need it the most.”

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