After watching the evening news on March 17 regarding housing, permits and NIMBY areas, I wanted to share what's happening in New Westminster's Queen’s Park neighbourhood.
On June 21, 2021 New Westminster city council voted to put a freeze on heritage revitalization agreement applications (HRAs).
This was done without any notice to residents of the Queen’s Park area, who are affected by the decision. All other areas of New Westminster were not included and continue to proceed with HRAs.
At the time of the freeze, or ‘refresh' as they like to call it, residents who had applications being assembled at a cost of around $14,000 were shut out overnight without notice.
Our application, in particular, could have been submitted within days and had been viewed by city staff to make sure we were addressing all the required key points prior to formal submission. City staff is fully aware of our incoming application.
Our HRA application would create an infill house, with a legal suite and existing two-car garage. It doesn’t get any better or any simpler. A new family home, a rental, more taxpayers and support for local business. Most importantly, it keeps our existing home in the heritage inventory and maintains the landscape of this unique area we intentionally chose to live in 27 years ago.
We sent a letter in February to the mayor and cc’d every council member asking when HRA applications might resume. Four out of six responded. Two council members said they were new and did not have the background on HRAs to respond and one returning council member agreed with our position. The mayor, Patrick Johnstone, who ran in the election with a ‘focus on housing’ was the other reply. Mayor Johnstone, while a council member in 2021, did not vote in support of the ‘freeze’ but supported streamlining of the process. He has not addressed it as mayor, nor has he responded to our follow-up letter requesting council unfreeze the HRA program and complete the ‘refresh’ at their leisure for future applications.
It's been almost two YEARS.
Shame on the city and the small group of determined NIMBYs who can’t share their passion for heritage while finding a way to be progressive in changing times.
The big question: How was this even allowed? How is it that the city-wide HRA program is stopped in just one area while it’s business as usual throughout the rest of New Westminster? It’s difficult to imagine higher levels of government would support closing the door on progress by a city council with their hand out for community development and housing funding.
Entering into this process we were warned this was not an undertaking for the faint of heart. The financial outlay, the city required upgrades, modifications to the existing home and of course being beaten down by community members who object. Now we’ve reached a whole other level of stress we never saw coming. It's our turn to object.
Perry and Caroline Roussy, New Westminster
Editor’s Note: The Record contacted the city’s climate action, planning and development department for an update on the HRA policy review. More details will be known once the new city council completes its strategic plan in April, a plan that maps out council’s priorities for the next four years.