Reject Beach Towers proposal, say residents

West End residents advocating for affordable housing will ask City Hall to  reject a Beach Towers rezoning application that proposes the development of 133  units available at above-market rental prices.

On Tuesday, Feb. 5, city council will hold a public hearing about the  controversial rezoning application.

The redevelopment of 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street is being  proposed under the city’s Short-Term Incentives for Rental Housing program,  whose mandate includes creating units with affordable rents.

Rents for units in the development, which includes a four-storey residential  building, a nine-storey tower and townhouses, will range from $1,125 to $2,270 a  month, according to Devonshire Properties’ application.

Those prices range from 18 to 27-per-cent higher than average rental prices  for similar-sized units in the West End.

A City of Vancouver community profile puts the median income in the West End  at $38,581. According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp., “affordable  rent” should be less than 30 per cent of pre-tax income. For West End residents  of average income that would be approximately $964 a month.

“West Enders do see the need for additional rentals,” said English Bay  resident Godfrey Tait. “What they can’t square is that this development is  beyond the reach of average people with average incomes.”

Tait said high rents are squeezing locals out of the neighbourhood and the  project would put an additional strain on services in the area. “Our community  centre is overflowing, there is a waiting list at the local school, there is a  real concern about more noise and traffic and nothing coming back to the  community.”

Christine Ackermann of the West End Residents Association said her  organization would like to see 10 to 20 units priced affordably, and for the  developer to reconsider the amount of parking — 416 spots, nearly 100 more than  the required 329 — which could bring more cars onto Beach Avenue, already a busy  thoroughfare for drivers who want to circumvent the city core to access Stanley  Park and the Lions Gate Bridge.

She also expressed concern about the rental rates in the proposed  development.

“The city says that because of the exceptional location, with waterfront  views, you cannot expect them to offer affordable rents,” she said.

Beach Towers features green space and a plaza that will be lost under the  current proposal, areas Tait said locals use to view the fireworks and annual  Pride parade. “It’s private property that serves a public good,” he said.

Randy Helton, of West End Neighbours, said the project should be stalled  until a formal community planning process underway for the neighbourhood is  completed.

“We are going to be asking the city to stop the development until the  community plan is in place. The developer is free to come back after the  community planning process is complete.”

Helton said 13,000 people signed a petition in 2009 calling for an end to  these kinds of “dramatic spot rezonings in the west end.”

Source: The Vancouver Sun

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