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 said “The 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.”
December 6, 2017