Urban reporter Jen St. Denis with Metro News has been following the controversy regarding different  doors in developments for separate entrances to the lower income or subsidized units and the market units. This discussion was precipitated  by the design of the Harwood located at Thurlow and Burnaby Streets in the West End that will have 82 market condo units and 39 social housing units.  On the City of Vancouver’s rezoning website the developers describe  Strand and Intracorp as “partnering together to develop real estate communities that enrich the fabric of the neighbourhoods they are built in. Through their partnership, Strand and Intracorp are committed to delivering a community that complements the West End’s textured character, while establishing itself as a landmark for the neighbourhood.”
However this proposed development has two separate entrances~one for market housing, and one for social housing. This has been done before in other developments in the city, and has  attracted some  criticism.  Other developers like Bosa in False Creek have built the social housing component as separate buildings, with kitchen windows handily looking over the enclosed children’s playground. In Olympic Village social housing is in a stand alone development, and designed to blend in with the rest of the area.
Not only does the Harwood have two separate entrances, but it is also being designed with two separate playgrounds at opposite sides, impenetrable to each other. As Jen St. Denis notes “That concerned Judy Graves, the city’s now-retired advocate for the homeless.”  Judy Graves saidThe concept of segregated children’s playgrounds disturbs me greatly.”
So why are social housing units separated in Vancouver developments? Developers who agree to build social housing in their project get extra building density. While they will sell off the market units which will be governed under the BC Strata Act, the units that are social housing units will be rented out, and will be governed under the Rental Tenancy Act   Keeping electrical and maintenance systems separate helps with the administrative requirements for both strata owners and social housing managers. Of course developers also want to ensure that they can sell condos without  any buyer fears about the proximity of “social” housing.  The city’s social housing  rentals fall under the purview of BC Housing and income limits  of $42,500 are allowable for a one bedroom, and $64,000 for a three bedroom. As Judy Graves notes in an email , most of the social housing at The Harwood would go to “professional parents”.
Gil Kelley the Planner for the City of Vancouver observes ““In general, sometimes it works well to have separate buildings, in other cases it doesn’t, and we’re going to be looking at these kinds of design rules to make sure this is housing for everyone at all levels of income.”


  1. If the NDP really does give municipalities the power for rental-only zoning, the city should use it in the West End. These condo towers are just one more example of gentrification.

  2. Designing a building with distinct areas reflecting uniqely different mgmt, financial & regulatory systems – on a day-to-day basis – is practical & effective. Volunteer Strata councils have enough on their plates managing their buildings, as well as the many landlord-owners who rent and strata bylaw/rule enforcement of tenants.
    The civil tribunal is clogged with internal strata disputes. For them to additionally being held responsible to also manage social housing is just way too beyond. The test for that is to ask a housing association if the work they do is simple enough to be easily transferred over to some other inexperienced organization.

      1. Sorry, I should have added: not separate because of a need to stop the plebes mingling with the rich but because of the headaches of one structure housing ifferent entities. As someone who has been on a strata which had three different legal entities contained in one building, and trust me, it is nothing but a headache.

  3. This is such a non-issue.
    If the development is built with a streetwall façade to the curb, then you can have any number of separate entrances in the “MIXED-USE” project and it may not even occur to people that the two are actually in the same building.
    What’s the difference between two adjacent buildings on a streetwall and one building with 2 lobbies.
    Look at L’Hermitage on Richards St.
    There’s a social housing lobby door, a restaurant door, the hotel/condo lobby door and a hairdresser door – all in a row on the sidewalk. No one bats an eye.
    The social housing door is under the arch. The hotel/condo door is under the awning. There’s a restaurant between the two.

    1. Exactly. Let developers decide how to split access to a building or really, a series of connected buildings.
      Only socialists see an issue here and like to pretend that everyone deserves a fancy lobby. They do not !

  4. Karen, above, is correct.
    A two minute scan of the Strata Act would explain how these two legal entities have to be separated. The governance laws, obligations and responsibilities of Strata residents cannot be applied to BC Housing tenants, and vice versa.

  5. I do not see any problem with separate doors. To call the door to the social housing component a “poor door” is just socialist rhetoric.
    There is a valid administrative rationale for separating the development into separate entities because of legalities and management issues, as the post and some of the comments state, but let’s be honest — there are social and marketing reasons too. That is the developer’s choice.
    I do not agree with those who say that the solution is to have separate buildings. The additional embodied energy, construction and materials costs, and footprint to make separate buildings has to be considered, and with today’s concerns about environmental impacts, housing affordability, climate change, view preservation and urban design, I think all these taken together outweigh the “poor door” rhetoric.

  6. I do not have a problem with the well designed two door buildings. I do have a problem with two playgrounds in one building, one for owners’ children, one for renters’ children. That kind of segregation is not a value we want Vancouver children to grow up with.

    1. Judy; you realize that the ownership of the playground, the design, maintenance, management, rules and hours of operation, insurance and legal liability – as well as who can use the playground all has to be established in law.
      One entity could own one playground and the children from the other entity would be subject to the rules established by the other entity, with the owning organization charging appropriate fees for usage, etc.

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