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Opinion: Now NIMBYs are whining about shadows from new housing

Opposition straight out of the NIMBY playbook
The Aboriginal Land Trust Society is proposing to build a 96-unit apartment building at 823 to 841 Sixth St, which would provide affordable housing for members of the Indigenous and Swahili communities.

NIMBYs are beginning to break my spirit as they find new and confounding ways to oppose any sort of density near them.

The past few weeks have seen my email inbox fill up with a series of terrible takes about the impacts of a proposed six-storey affordable housing project.

Yes, six storeys. Not some mega-tower plunked next to them, but 96 units of affordable renting housing that our communities need to deal with the housing crisis.

And yet judging from the letters I’ve received, it’s a calamitous proposal that will bring destruction to the lives of the people who live in the area.

One homeowner is “appalled” that what is proposed is “such a tall housing complex, which will be in such close proximity to the single-family homes.”

Remember, we’re talking about six storeys. I mean, just look at the rendering attached to this blog. That doesn’t look “tall” to me.

The letter also comes with all of the usual complaints about any sort of density, including the loss of parking and increased traffic – as though those are serious reasons for not building affordable housing.

But then came the real hot take in all of this. This homeowners is whining about the “shadow” created by this new housing.

“Shadowing is another consequence as a result of the size of a 60 foot and 6 storey building,” the resident writes. “Due to the building’s location, it would cast a large shadow over the existing housing south of the proposed site.”

Seriously? We’re opposing affordable housing because of shadows now?

In case you are wondering, this project is proposed in New Westminster at 823 to 841 Sixth St., but the opposition is the same you hear for projects in Burnaby and beyond. Straight out of the single-family house owners' playbook.

For those who don’t know, Sixth Street is a busy road and sits across from New Westminster Secondary.

You can read more about the project here, but the Aboriginal Land Trust Society has made applications to the city for an amendment to the official community plan, a rezoning and a development permit as part of its plan, which would house members of the Indigenous and Swahili communities.

A staff report notes the neighbourhood around the site is designated in the official community plan to have lower density uses, but the OCP allows for the consideration of six-storey buildings in cases where there is “high alignment” with city policies.

“This project would deliver much-needed affordable units in New Westminster, aligning with the mandate of the 2019 to 2022 strategic plan through which the city resolved to ‘aggressively pursue creative approaches to housing policy and on-the-ground projects to transform the way housing is provided in New Westminster’ and to ‘use partnerships, negotiations with developers and leveraging city resources to secure development of below- and non-market housing, as well as affordable child care,’” said the report. “The project’s intent to house multigenerational members of the Indigenous community, including elders, families and individuals, is aligned with the city’s reconciliation initiative.”

But this homeowner slams the project, which will help people find housing they actually can afford, because of shadows. It’s getting to be too much for my emotions to handle.  

The fact is we need more density as we continue to address the affordable housing crisis and owners of detached houses are going to have to get used to this.

One final note relates to another letter I received opposing this project, just in case you wanted to know the deeper reasons why some people are against it.

“I’m not opposed to town houses on Sixth Street owned by residents, but a six-storey building with renters, etc. will not have the same commitment to the area as owners.”

Well, there you go – more renter bashing.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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