Vancouver councillors vote to nullify Little Mountain social housing requirements

Vancouver City Council has voted to pull restrictions that would have forced a major developer to build social housing in the first phases of the redevelopment at Little Mountain.

In 2008, the Holborn Group bought the Little Mountain site near Queen Elizabeth Park from the province for $334 million. Just one year later, the development group displaced nearly 700 people living in social housing on the site by demolishing the homes.

The site has sat empty since, primarily because of a requirement that social housing be built on the property in the first two phases of redevelopment.

Wednesday’s decision nullifies that requirement, but Coun. Christine Boyle says she wasn’t in favour of the move.

“This is an issue that the public has been deeply engaged in for a very long time and it is part of our job as council to hold Holborn to their promise to replace that existing social housing,” she said.

Now that council is “knocking out the remaining teeth” restricting the developer, Boyle says there’s no way the city can hold Holborn accountable for its commitment to building social housing in a timely manner.

She says Little Mountain used to be filled with families and seniors who spent time in their courtyards and called the community home.

The city is making this decision after Holborn claimed it could not get financing for construction with the social housing requirement in place.

Holborn responds

In an e-mail Friday, Holborn said, “Currently, 53 units of non-market housing have been built on site. An additional 62 non-market units are under construction and will be completed in Q1 2024. The City’s building, which contains 48 non-market units, a 69-space daycare, and a Neighborhood House will break ground in Q1, 2024. The two remaining non-market housing, including 70 units situated on lot 8 and 49 units situated on lot 5, will commence construction in Q1 and Q2 of 2024.”

With regard to the recent council decision, Holborn suggested it is still obligated to follow through and replace the social housing units as part of the purchase agreement with the province, with the e-mail stating, “The terms of the Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) with the Provincial Rental Housing Corporation (PRHC) and the resulting housing covenant registered on title provide security for the upfront delivery of the non-market housing on site. Should Holborn default on their obligations, PRHC and BC Housing may act through these legal processes and rights necessary to foreclose and/or take over the site and lands.”

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