A total of 212 new additional rental homes are coming to Vancouver’s eastern foot of Hastings Street within the Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood.
Earlier this week, Vancouver city council approved PCI Developments’ pair of rezoning applications for a project with two separate sites that bookend the 3600 block of East Hastings Street — located just across from the Kootenay Bus Loop, and immediately west of Boundary Road.
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The western corner lot at 3600 East Hastings Street spans approximately 10,700-sq-ft and is currently occupied by a one-storey commercial building, while the eastern corner lot at 3680 East Hastings Street spans about 14,000-sq-ft and is occupied by a three-storey commercial building. The mid-block properties, currently occupied by three buildings up to three storeys, are not part of the project. Both buildings at the block ends will be 14 storeys, with a height of roughly 160 ft.
The project is under the city’s Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program (MIRHPP), which dedicates 20% of the residential floor area to moderate income households, defined as incomes between $30,000 and $80,000 annually.
Under MIRHPP, 3600 East Hastings Street will have 94 rental homes, including 19 non-market units and 75 market units, while 3680 East Hastings Street will have 118 homes, including 24 non-market units and 94 market units. Altogether, these buildings will create 43 non-market units and 169 market units.
The average starting monthly rents are $950 for a studio (average household income of $38,000), $1,200 for a one-bedroom unit (average household income of $48,000), $1,600 for a two-bedroom unit (average household income of $64,000), and $2,000 for a three-bedroom unit (average household income of $80,000). These rates are considerably lower than the average market rent for newer rental buildings in the Vancouver Eastside.
The ground level of both buildings will have a combined total of 18,500 sq. ft. of retail and restaurant spaces. The project’s design firm is BHA Architecture.
There was just one holdout city councillor, Jean Swanson, who voted against the applications, citing concerns over her perception that the units are unaffordable and the redevelopment could lead to the area’s gentrification.
“My biggest concern is something I don’t think anyone raised. Right now there are several apartment buildings with about 100 tenants in the 3500 and 3600 blocks of East Hastings, and when I talk to some of the people there and asked what the rents are, I got the range of $600 to $2,200. One of them was $800 for a two-bedroom unit,” said Swanson.
“So I’m really afraid this project is going to gentrify this neighbourhood. We might get 19 moderate income units [from 3600 East Hastings], but we lose almost 100 units that are relatively affordable right now… I don’t think we should put the tenancy of these existing hundred or so people at risk.”
Other concerns brought up by public speakers and some of the other councillors related to building heights — as both towers will be some of the highest structures in the area — and the possibility that the resulting density will lead to further overcrowding on transit buses that serve the area.
But councillor Melissa De Genova argued that these projects would be transit-oriented developments, given that they are served by a number of bus routes including the R5 Hastings Street RapidBus. She asserted there would inevitably be service increases over time to better meet ridership demand.
Councillor Adriane Carr also acknowledged that the private developer requires the allocated height and density for market rental housing to create a financially feasible project that helps cover the cost of the affordable housing component.
Altogether, the floor space ratio densities of the towers are 7.1 times the size of the lot for the western tower and 6.9 times the size of the lot for the eastern tower. The combined total floor area is 172,286-sq-ft, with 76,083-sq-ft for the western tower and 96,203-sq-ft for the eastern tower.
“It is very hard, in fact near impossible, to lower the height and lower the density to achieve levels of real affordability, which is people paying no more than 30% of their household income on housing, unless there is some sort of outside subsidy like social housing with support from the province and non-profit societies,” said Carr.
“The fact that we’re going to get 24 units of housing at 30% of income levels in this project [at 3680 East Hastings] is a win.”
Each tower will have three underground levels of parking, with 41 vehicle stalls in the western tower and 57 vehicle stalls in the eastern tower.
MIRHPP incentives to developers include additional height and density beyond what is available under existing zoning, development cost levy waiver, parking requirement reductions, relaxation of minimum unit size, and expedited application processing.
City staff are aiming to select up to 20 proposals to go through the MIRHPP rezoning application stream through January 1, 2021.
On January 21, city council also approved the MIRHPP rental housing proposal for 1956-1990 Stainsbury Avenue. The new five-storey building will provide 80 rental homes, with 20% of the floor area assigned to moderate income households. Only councillor Colleen Hardwick voted in opposition.