Kettle Boffo Commercial Drive housing project cancelled over city's fee demands

Jun 20 2018, 2:45 am

After seven years of planning, a relatively modest proposal to build a 12-storey, mixed-use building on Commercial Drive is no longer in motion due to exorbitant high costs by the City of Vancouver.

The Kettle Society and Boffo Properties announced today it has decided to cancel its Kettle Boffo project at a large a triangular-shaped city block framed by the Commercial Diversion to the east, Commercial Drive to the west, Venables Street to the south, and Adanac Street to the north.

The project would have provided 30 homes of supportive housing for people with mental illness and provided The Kettle Society with a new, expanded facility for its drop-in services and programs in the area. Proceeds from the development’s 200 units of market housing and 18,000 sq. ft. of ground-floor retail space would fund the social housing and new drop-in facility.

Kettle Boffo

Artistic rendering of the Kettle Boffo housing project on Commercial Drive. (Kettle Boffo)

These community amenity contribution (CAC) benefits had a combined in-kind value of $39 million, but the developer and the non-profit society said the municipal government demanded an additional cash-only CAC of between $6 million and $16 million.

The additional cost rendered the project financially unviable, and for this reason, we are unable to proceed,” reads a joint letter released by project proponents Nancy Keough and Daniel Boffo, adding that the significant cost of delivering social housing is already a developer cost.

“We are devastated that our shared vision for a more inclusive community cannot become a reality… The Kettle Boffo partnership – one that makes it possible to create both additional market and supportive housing in an inclusive community form – is an example of the type of innovative partnerships that have been approved before and that is encouraged by the city’s new Housing Strategy between developer and non-profit partners.”

Kettle Boffo

Artistic rendering of the Kettle Boffo housing project on Commercial Drive. (Kettle Boffo)

They assert that they were unable to break with the impasse created by the City of Vancouver on maintaining the viability of the project, which has not even reached the stage of making a formal rezoning application despite being first proposed in 2011.

Vancouver City Council has made a commitment to a housing policy that nurtures a more compassionate, diverse, and inclusive community where neighbours care for and about each other,” continues the letter.

“And yet, in practice, the city was unable to make our project – one that enjoys both Council and community support – work. It is our sincere hope that the city can find a new approach to ensure innovative partnerships like ours can move forward in the future.”

Keough and Boffo add that they are completely “moving on” from this project, which also attracted a host of NIMBY activists, even though the proposed building was shorter than the 13-storey Adanac Towers building directly across the street.

A recent independent study conducted by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s Housing Forum 2018 found that government taxes and fees – including CACs – account for 26.22% or $220,256 of the total $840,000 cost of a typical new apartment in the city. Similar findings were found in a separate report that analyzed single-family homes, as strict and inflexible regulations add $644,000 to the cost of constructing a single-family home in Vancouver.

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