City would offer land worth $22 million to consortium of non-profit partners on a 99-year lease
The proposed new housing would include a mix of 273 one-, two-and three-bedroom condos and townhomes with rents set below market rates. Of those, an estimated 48 units will be reserved for people with mental illness. The proposal also calls for 82 family-sized townhomes to rent at market rate with profits funnelled back to support the lower-cost housing. The plan, which has yet to receive council approval, gives first priority on all 355 units to Vancouver residents – particularly seniors, students and families with children – followed by those who work in the city.
Coun. Geoff Meggs said the proposal offers an innovative solution to the city’s need for mid-range rental housing – that is, housing that fits somewhere between shelters for street homeless and top-dollar market rentals. “This project looks like it has the capacity to do that,” he said.
Partnering in the proposed deal is a consortium led by the Land Trust, a non-profit charity established by the Co-op Housing Federation of British Columbia in 1993 with a stated purpose to acquire, create and preserve affordable housing.
The Land Trust was the winning bidder in a process launched by the city in August 2012 when it offered up six sites on long-term lease for the development and operation of new affordable housing.
The Land Trust proposal would see rental housing built on four of the six sites – three located in southeast Vancouver and one at 1700 Kingsway.
Thom Armstrong, executive director of Co-op Housing Federation, said the ability to bundle the properties into a single portfolio makes the project financially feasible.
“If you just develop housing one site at a time, you live or die on the advantages or disadvantages that particular site brings you,” he said.
The land deal is worth an estimated $22 million, with the city proposing to enter into a 99-year lease.
Armstrong said the partners were chosen carefully to pool the capacity each has to offer in areas of real-estate appraisal, design, development, financing and construction of housing projects. Those identified include Vancity, Social Purpose Development Partners Inc., Terra Housing, DYS Architecture, COHO Management Services, Performance Construction and Colliers.
The housing itself would be operated by not-for-profit partners, including the Fraserview Housing Co-operative, Housing Foundation of British Columbia, Katherine Sanford Housing Society and Tikva Housing Society.
“There could be a downside if the partners’ visions weren’t so well-aligned. We certainly didn’t select these partners by accident. We went to the most stable, most credible non-profit operators around,” he said.
According to the city, the Land Trust’s average rent is targeted to be $769 per month for a one-bedroom unit – about 20 per cent below the Housing Income Limit metric ($950/mth) established by BC Housing.
Should the Land Trust proposal receive approval, construction is targeted to begin in March 2014, with residents moving in by late 2015.