City planning staff recommendation to convert 96 rental units to hotel rooms described as a “sensitive issue”

All through 2010, the mayor and council repeatedly stated that the city needs more rental space, and it seems, at all costs. In the December 28, 2010 West Ender article, Mayor Robertson said while “I’m not much of a New Year’s resolution guy…. I would say it’s to have a record year for opening social and rental housing in Vancouver — those two combined. We’ve got a lot of projects in the works. My goal is to land as many units of social and rental housing as possible in 2011.” So imagine the surprise to see that in the second week of this new year, the Development Permit Board will consider approving the conversion of 96 existing rental units at 1128 Alberni Street to hotel rooms. No wonder it’s considered “sensitive”.

What is even more interesting about this scenario is the company seeking approval for this change of use is the Peterson Investment Group. This same developer is partners with Westbank Projects Corp. and Henriquez Partners Architects on the 1401 Comox Street (St. John’s Church) rezoning application to build 193 market rental units under the controversial STIR program.

In the September 8, 2010 West Ender, the principal of Westbank, Ian Gillespie cautioned residents that “delaying the Comox tower will contribute to the West End’s rental-housing crisis.”  And he continued: “Every year you get buildings that are condemned or buildings that are converted or combined, so you have declining stock…You get old folks getting thrown out on the streets, you get people’s rents getting jacked.” In the same article, Henriquez said if we were careful, we might “actually increase rental supply in Vancouver quite substantially”. Yet this Monday, city staff will likely approve a proposal to convert these valuable rental units to hotel spaces. The rationale – they were never really used for rental accommodations and “no actual tenants will be displaced.” And aside from the question of why these units were never used as rental accommodations, it does appear to be a contradiction in the policy so often espoused by the Vision Council.

The application is scheduled for the Development Permit meeting:

January 10, 2010
Meeting commences 3:00 pm
Council Chamber, 3rd Floor, City Hall

You can find the report from the planning department recommending approval here.

For more information, see the Carmana.

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