Right to the City: Nov 23 Forum on Housing and the 2010 Games

Back in August 2009, the Impact On Community Coalitions filed a human-rights complaint with the United Nations against the governments of Canada and B.C. and the Olympic organizing committee, VANOC, over broken housing promises.  Renters at Risk  supported the IOCC’s complaint,  providing documentation of recent evictions  and rent increase deals where long term tenants are asked to pay far  above 3.7% to retain their tenancy,  in some cases up to 80% more.

The Impact on Community Coalition say hundreds of renters will face the threat of eviction prior to the Olympics because of “loopholes” in tenancy legislation.

“People are being evicted for renovations, rents are skyrocketing and the Olympics is definitely an issue that is creating this environment,”  said Janine Fuller of Renters at Risk.    Full article here

Here is the 2010 Winter Games Inner-City Inclusive Commitment Statement on housing issues:

a) Protect rental housing stock
a) b) Provide as many alternative forms of temporary accommodation for Winter Games
visitors and workers
b) c) Ensure people are not made homeless as a result of the Winter Games
c) d) Ensure residents are not involuntarily displaced, evicted or face unreasonable increases
in rent due to the Winter Games
d) e) Provide an affordable housing legacy and start planning now


Local Groups Launch The West End Seniors Affordable Housing Initiative

In response to the alarming loss of affordable rental housing in the West End, a partnership of community groups is launching the West End Seniors Affordable Housing Initiative to help renters at risk of losing their homes.

Gordon Neighbourhood House is partnering with the West End Residents Aassociation (WERA), Women In Search of Housing Society (WISHS), The West End Seniors Network (WESN) and local rental advocate, Sharon Isaak from Renters At Risk.  The program aims to deliver much-needed rental housing assistance to older West End residents caught in the current affordable housing crisis.

Renovictions, rising market rents, above-guideline rent increases, and changes to the Residential Tenancy Act are all factors forcing many long-term renters out of the West End community. Seniors and older adults in the West End are particularly vulnerable to being displaced from their homes.

The West End Affordable Housing Initiative (WESAHI) recognizes that the ability to age in place is fundamentally important to a sustainable community, and aims to support West End seniors to stay in their rental homes.

This Initiative will deliver both practical education about tenancy laws and provide direct support by connecting seniors to programs and existing resources in the community in three ways.

1. Seniors Housing Outreach Coordinator

Sharon Isaak will be available at Gordon Neighbourhood house on Thursday mornings to assist West End residents with their local rental housing concerns.  Make an appointment by calling 604-683-2554 or email isaaksharon@gmail.com

2. FORUM 1: The Right to Rent: Aging in Place

Sunday Nov 22/2009 at 2 pm  At Gordon Neighbourhood House

Tenants Resource Advisory Centre (TRAC), the Seniors Services Society and the West End Seniors Network will provide information about current rental challenges facing the community and will introduce programs, services and resources available to seniors. There will be an interactive session with participants.

3. FORUM 2: Aging In Place: Ideas into Action:

Date TBA, Spring 2010

The second forum will build on the information and feedback from the first forum, and will explore alternative housing options and  solutions to concerns facing older adults and seniors in the West End.

The United Way ‘Solutions for Seniors’ Seed GrantUWLowMaincol provided this opportunity for community groups to generate locally-relevant solutions about key issues affecting seniors, such as affordable and supportive housing.

1215 Bidwell: New Affordable Rental Housing Coming to Maxine’s?

If  you are wondering what is  going on with the re-development project at 1215  Bidwell Street in the West End  (currently the historic  site of Maxine’s Restaurant and Lounge, formerly Balthazaar), you are not alone.   After several year of planning,  the good news for renters  is that the project now includes 49 new rental units.  (15 bedroom and 34 bachelor units ranging from 400-515 square feet,  a  400 square foot bachelor is estimated to rent for $980/month)

The city zoning currently allow developers to build a  low-rise  structure or a tall, thin condo tower up to 210 feet on that site with no street level stores or purpose built rental units.

A third option now before council is a combination of the two.  This tower would still be 210 ft, with added rental units and street level retail space.   The front façade of the heritage building would be kept intact.   This development proposal offers  much needed purpose built rental units,  higher density ratios,  and a LEEDS green building to the site.   However, there are remaining questions around  affordability and the overall impact to the community by the development.

This project’s  rezoning application was before Council on Oct 6,2009 and will be before city council for a public hearing on Dec 1st,2009.

Agenda and reports of the Council meeting

Staff are recommending to Council that rezoning should be presented for a public hearing. At a public hearing all citizens of Vancouver have the right to speak to the rezoning and tell Council what they think about the rezoning application.
You can find more information about this  at the West End Residents Association Website ( www. wera.bc.ca)

On Saturday November 21st, the West End Residents Association is hosting a community forum at 1 pm at the Empire Landmark about current development rezoning applications in the West End community.

West Enders upset at planned 22-storey rental tower in their midsts

West Enders upset at planned 22-storey rental tower in their midsts

Developers have applied to rezone and develop the site of St. John's Church on Comox and Broughton in Vancouver and build a 22-storey residential tower in its place. Proponents say it will increase badly-needed rental stock in the city. Residents argue it's too tall a tower. Photograph by: Ric Ernst, The Province

Source: The Province Newspaper
By Cheryl Chan, The Province,  November 8, 2009
Comments (95)

Some West End residents are outraged over a proposed 22-storey residential tower in what is already Canada’s densest neighborhood.

Last week, notices went out to residents living in a two-block radius of St. John’s United Church on Comox and Broughton informing them that the unused church, purchased in September for $4.25-million by Westbank Development and Peterson Investment Group — the duo behind the landmark Shangri-la Hotel — is going to be replaced by a high-rise comprised of 180 apartments, 13 townhomes and 81 parking spots.

All residential units would be rentals.

“It’s a disappointment,” said Maris Pavelson, who has lived in the neighborhood for 23 years.

“I was expecting it to be a community centre. There’s very few public spaces in the West End. We don’t need another high-rise.”

“I’m not down on renters, but a 22-storey building is just too much,” said resident Alison Charabim, who is worried about the influx of cars and traffic into the neighborhood.

To build the tower, architect firm Henriquez Partners has applied to rezone the property to increase the height maximum from 58 to 66 metres.

Another proposed residential building on Bidwell and Davie — a 20-storey tower with 49 units of rental housing and 98 market condo units by developer Millennium Properties — has also drawn mixed reaction from residents.

The site is occupied by cabaret lounge Maxine’s Hideaway, a grocer, an insurance company and restaurants.

If approved, the two developments will be the first substantial projects to be built in the West End in decades, aside from O2, a 20-unit seven-storey condo on Davie near Denman completed earlier this summer.

The developments will change the face of the West End, said Christine Ackerman of the West End Residents Association.

“There’s concern that the face of the West End is changing and it’s changing away from what it is valued for: being a mixed, diverse community,” said Ackerman.

“It’s not just changing one little corner, but we’re seeing it happen everywhere.”

Gregory Henriquez of Henriquez Partners, the architectural firm in charge of both projects, said he understands the community’s fears but stressed that the buildings will increase much-needed rental stock in a neighborhood where vacancy rates are less than 1 per cent.

“The reality is one tower amidst dozens of towers is not incrementally a big change,” he said.

“The community benefit is that you’re building something average people can afford to rent.”

And not all residents are down on the towers.

Mike Donnelly, who has been renting in the West End for six years, is keen on the new projects.

“If it means that there’s more affordable options for renters like me, I’m all for it,” he said.

“I’d be curious to know how much the units would be going for because I’d like to switch to some place nicer and newer.”

About 75 per cent of buildings in the West End were built before 1980.

Both projects were submitted under the city’s Short Term Incentives for Rental program, a 2 1/2 year program launched in June that aims to stimulate the construction of new rental housing by providing incentives to developers.

The first public information meeting on the Comox Street proposal will be held at the Coast Plaza Hotel on Nov. 24. The city’s decision on the Bidwell site, which has been in the works since 2007, is expected on Dec. 1.

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