Condos flood into Oppenheimer area while City stalls on planning process: By Jean Swanson

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile the City stalls on the Local Area Planning Process (LAPP), the heart of the DTES community is being taken over by condo and market housing developments. The latest is a proposal for 24 condos and only 5 social housing units (probably only 2 or 3 at rents people on welfare can afford) at 626 Alexander.

The LAPP was supposed to be passed by Council on Nov. 20, but was then pushed to January. Now it seems like it might not get to Council until March. All of this is because the City keeps missing its own deadlines for developing the draft plan. And LAPP Committee members want time to see the plan and get input on it before it goes to council.

The delay is not good. It gives developers time to organize against new zoning in the Oppenheimer district. And it opens the door to a flood of new condo applications.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the good proposals for the LAPP is to rezone the Oppenheimer area so that new developments that take up more space than the lot they are on must have 60% social housing and 40% market housing. This would block condos, keep property values down, and relieve pressure on hotel room rents. With lower property values, it’s more likely that non profit groups and government could afford the property for social housing.

Current zoning in the Oppenheimer area requires only 20% social housing. So developers are rushing to get their condo projects put through city processes before the city agrees to the 60-40 proposal. So far developers in the Oppenheimer area have these projects in the works:

  • 138 E. Hastings:  79 condos plus 18 social housing, only 9 of those at welfare rents;
  • 557 E. Cordova:  24 condos plus 5 social housing units at welfare rents;
  • 179 Main:  47 market rental units plus 9 social housing units (don’t know how many at welfare rents);
  • 626 Alexander: 24 condos plus 5 social housing units (don’t know how many at welfare rents).

If all these projects go ahead, there could be 174 more market housing units in the precious Oppenheimer area, the heart of the DTES, with only about 21 units of social housing at welfare rates. The City’s 2005 DTES Housing Plan calls for market housing and social housing to proceed at the same rate. But, at this rate, market housing in the future of this area will be at the rate of 8 market units to 1 social housing unit that people on welfare and disability can afford. The plan also calls for the Oppenheimer area to take the lion’s share of new social housing.

Who knows how many more market housing units will sneak in before the LAPP is completed? Or, will developers put so much pressure on City Council that they don’t even pass the 60-40?

If you want to speak out, an open house for the Alexander St. project is being held at the Jim Green Residents, 415 Alexander St. on Nov. 19, from 5pm to 7:30 pm.

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