An affordable housing development that’s created division within the community is heading to public hearing on Monday.
After months of input from opponents and proponents, council is poised to consider the Aboriginal Land Trust’s proposal at a public hearing on Monday, May 31 at 6 p.m. It’s proposing to build a six-storey, 96-unit affordable housing building at 823 to 841 Sixth St. to provide rental housing for members of the Indigenous and Swahili communities.
In order to proceed, the project requires an amendment to the official community plan (OCP) to change the land-use designation from residential-infill townhouse to residential-multiple unit buildings. The sites, currently occupied by single-family homes, also need to be rezoned from single-detached residential districts to comprehensive development district (823 to 841 Sixth St.), which would be a new zoning district that’s unique to this site.
Members of council serving on the city’s land use and planning committee got their first look at the project in August 2020, when staff presented a report during the pre-application review phase. Since then, the project has been considered by various groups including: the Glenbrook North Residents’ Association, which voted 74-40 in favour of advising council it opposes the requested change to the OCP; and the New Westminster design panel and the advisory planning commission, which both unanimously supported the application.
Community members have provided the city and the applicant with plenty of feedback for their consideration through: the city’s online engagement platform, Be Heard New West; virtual information sessions; a petition signed by more than 1,300 people opposing the plan to amend to the OCP to allow the project to proceed; and numerous letters and delegations to council.
Throughout the process, a number of themes have emerged.
While many of the residents who oppose the project say they support affordable housing, they’ve suggested a two-or three-storey building is a better fit next to adjacent single-family homes. They’ve expressed concern about amending the OCP to allow the six-storey building to be built, have voiced safety concerns about putting more traffic and pedestrians into the narrow lane running between Fifth and Sixth streets, and are worried the six-storey building will shadow neighbouring homes.
The petition has been signed by residents from across the city, some who fear the project would set a precedent for further OCP amendments in other neighbourhoods.
Supporters of the project, however, argue the building meets many of the city’s goals outlined in the OCP, which is meant to be a living document that evolves over time. They strongly support the provision of affordable housing, believe that providing housing for Indigenous residents is a step toward the goal of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and feel a six-storey building is appropriate at this location because it’s on a busy street and is near transit, schools and other amenities.