A recently completed townhouse development in the West End is the first in a series of projects aimed at addressing the “missing middle” in New West.
Canada West Group built the Elina on Eighth townhouse project at 1211 Eighth Ave., which includes 22 housing units – 20 of which have three or more bedrooms.
“The unit mix paid off and the development sold out earlier this year, attracting families from all over who were looking for more space, an affordable home and a convenient and friendly community,” said a press release about the project’s grand opening. “In fact, homes were sold to a family who lives in a condo a block away and wanted to stay in their community, and one of the original owners who sold her land to Canada West will be moving back and living in a brand new townhome.”
The project (which is named after the developer’s daughter) exceeds the City of New Westminster’s family friendly housing policy, which requires 30% of the units to have two to three bedrooms, with at least 10% of the units having three or more bedrooms.
The development is also consistent with the city’s RGO/RT ground-orientated infill housing designation, which seeks to support the construction of townhomes or rowhomes that fit in and complement the surrounding single-family homes.
Mayor Jonathan Cote attended the project’s grand opening celebration, where he presented keys to one of the buyers, Aychel Funcia, who moved into one of the four-bedroom units with her husband and daughter. They relocated from a small condo in New West to their new home, where their toddler is now able to have her own room and a place to run without disturbing the neighbours below.
“When I attended the opening to Elina, which is kind of the first major townhouse development coming out of the new policy work coming out of the official community plan, I got a chance to meet with a lot of the families moving in there,” Cote told the Record. “A lot were saying, ‘We live in a condo, we can’t afford a single-family home, we need that kind of step in between.’ That was hard to find in New Westminster, and if this wasn’t an option they would have to be looking into other communities. It definitely encouraged me that this is important housing work as part of the housing spectrum that we need to look at in our community.”
In 2019, council approved a rezoning for the five properties on Eighth Avenue to pave the way for the Elina infill townhouse development.
Cote said the project is consistent with new land-use designations included in the new official community plan, which was approved in 2017.
“One of the focuses in that community plan was looking at: how do you get more gentle density and how do you get what’s considered the missing middle in housing into our community?” he said. “It was definitely identified through that process that New Westminster is lacking in the townhouse form of housing in our community. We actually have a very healthy supply of condos, we have a healthy supply of single family homes, but there is nothing in between, and that does create challenges for residents.”
According to the Canada West Group, the development attracted purchasers from New West, Burnaby and Vancouver who were searching for a more affordable place to call home without having to cross bridges or move too far outside of the Lower Mainland.
“The mayor, city council, engineering, planning, building and many other city departments have worked hard to support this project, and as a result we have built a project we are proud of and that will be home to the families we set out to attract,” said Arash Haidari of Canada West Group. “The last couple of years have been difficult years for all of us. It is our hope that the new residents of Elina will start a joyous and healthy chapter in the homes we built for them.”
When developing a new official community plan, the City of New Westminster sought to include housing that bridges the gap between single-family homes and highrise condo units. The “missing middle” generally refers to housing with multiple units that’s in a compatible scale and form with the neighbouring single-family homes.
Jackie Teed, the city’s senior manager of climate action, planning and development, said a number of projects that are similar to the one at 1211 Eighth Ave. are under review or have been approved.
“We have a few others which are in the very early stages and not necessarily public yet, so overall we’re having good uptake on this type of project,” she said. “We also have had good uptake on laneway houses.”
The new official community plan included the new Residential – Infill Townhouse (RT) designation, which allows for small scale, side-by-side townhouses and rowhouses. It also included the new Residential – Ground Oriented Infill Housing (RGO) designation, which allows for a wider range of housing forms, including single detached houses, duplexes, triplexes, quadruplexes, infill townhouses, and infill rowhouses.
“We’re pleased to have a number of infill projects being developed in New Westminster, which support the vision of the city’s OCP to increase housing choice,” Teed said. “More housing options will allow our residents to meeting their changing needs, and help new immigrants and young professionals make our community their home.”
Elina on Eighth may have been the first project of its type built under the new OCP land-use designations, but it won’t be the last. Here’s a look at some other projects in the works that the city hopes will address some gaps in housing forms currently available in the city.
* 835 Royal Ave. (Brow of the Hill). The public hearing has been completed for this project, which includes a heritage revitalization agreement. An 1890 house on the front of the site will become a duplex (with a rental suite in one of the units.) One of the houses on the property will be demolished and a new three-unit townhouse will be built on a new lot at the rear of the site, facing Ontario Street.
*102-128 East Eighth Avenue and 721 Cumberland St. (Massey Victory Heights). An application is currently under review for a proposed 55-unit infill townhouse development. The project is being proposed on 10 properties and would consist of units that are two or two-and-a-half storeys in height.
* 45 East Eighth Ave. (Massey Victory Heights) A four-unit rowhouse development is now under construction. It will be the first rowhouse development built on the city’s mainland that has a fee-simple ownership model. It’s also the first rowhouse development to be implemented with the infill townhouse and rowhouse design guidelines that were developed as part of the official community plan.
* 909 First St. (Glenbrook North). A four-unit stratified townhouse development is now under construction at this location.
* 547 Ewen Ave. (Queensborough). This project has been approved by council but has yet to be constructed. It includes the retention and restoration of the historic Slovak Hall, which will be converted into two housing units. Three townhouses will be built next to it, with all units having two or three bedrooms.