The controversial highrise at Comox and Broughton under construction, earlier this week:
This development, one of several STIR (Short-Term Incentive for Rental) projects approved by council as part of its promotion of rental housing, was the source of considerable angst. The blowback generated petitions, public meetings, community groups, a new political party, web sites and countless rants.
But not from me. Even though I was on the council that rezoned the West End in 1989 to slow the rate of growth and limit the number of highrises that could be built on any one block, I never thought we should remove the possibility of new towers.
Reaction to new development is to be expected (‘As the rate of change slows, people’s perception and anxiety about change increases’) – to the point where, as I saw in one display, opponents labelled this tower as “unprecedented.”
‘Unprecedented’ in a neighbourhood that saw several hundred highrises built in the span of a decade and a half. A neighbourhood that is only affordable to lower-middle-income renters because of that explosive growth. A neighbourhood that was saved from the excruciating pressure of change because of the dozens of towers built in the surrounding downtown districts throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
That era is over. And unless there is at least a modicum of new accommodation built, the pressure will return – perhaps inevitably. And though, yes, this new rental housing will be more expensive (‘new’ always is), it will in time be the older stock, just as the surrounding 1960s towers, visible above, provide housing for many of those who likely opposed this development.