May 26, 2022

A Solution to Broadway Plan Stalling: Phase, Prioritize & Evaluate Affordable Rental Housing

Earlier this week Viewpoint Vancouver posted about the  Broadway Plan which has a broad brush approach to upzoning eight blocks north and south of the proposed plan area which is from Vine to Clark Streets along Broadway.

While everyone agrees that more secured affordable and rental  housing must be built, this plan is not staged or sequenced in a way to concentrate development around immediate rapid transit  station areas, and instead upzones almost five hundred blocks around  the sites.

There is no guidance in the Broadway plan to  nuance staging and concentrating proposed new development. Unlike the Yaletown development that largely replaced industrial warehousing,  much of the surrounding Broadway area proposed for higher density  containing some of the most affordable rental housing stock in Vancouver in the form of three storey walk-ups.

Other than some  city planners that have left the city to have dual roles in development, it is very rare for seasoned city planners to publicly comment on the work of the current planning department to City Council.

But here are two extremely well respected formerly senior planners, Ronda Howard and Trish French, both former Assistant Directors of Planning for Vancouver who have written to Council suggesting a way for Council to nuance and prioritize work on the Broadway Plan. The current plan has no road map on how best to stage development requests to achieve affordable rental housing, and  how to address the risks displacing people from current affordable rental stock in the surrounding neighbourhoods.

The letter is below:

Subject: Broadway Plan: Further suggestions from 2 former Assistant Directors of Planning

Dear Mayor and Council

We are two former Assistant Directors of Planning who have followed the development of the Broadway Plan. On March 23, 2022 we wrote to you about the draft Plan with concerns and suggestions. After listening to current discussion at Council on the proposed Broadway Plan, we are writing to reiterate, and refine, our previous suggestion for Council to strategically phase adoption and implementation of the Plan, as follows.

1. In Station Areas and the parts of Shoulder Areas directly along Broadway, allow redevelopment to proceed in accordance with the Plan. This will both support the transit line, and create more housing, including rental, with minimal loss of existing housing.

2. In the Existing Apartment Areas, where both rental and condo buildings already supply significant and affordable housing, allow only a defined, limited number of projects over the next, say, 5 years provided they either replace existing rental (under the conditions set out in the Plan), or are projects by non-profit groups.

At the end of the 5 years the City should evaluate these to determine whether the hopes and/or fears being expressed by planners, residents and others are coming to pass, and how policies might need to be adjusted. This will further the goals of dealing with deteriorating existing rental buildings, adding more rental and non-market units, and maintaining most existing affordable stock, pending determination of whether the economics and various tenant protection and affordability measures are actually workable.

3. Complete the key follow-up work the Plan requires, including assessing it in the context of the overall Vancouver Plan.

This will address the valid questions about park space, heritage, and other still unresolved parts of the Plan, as well as provide insight as to whether it makes sense to implement all the remaining Broadway Plan densification proposals, or some of them, or to prioritize action in other areas of the city which have lower land costs, more existing amenities, and good transit service.

Council is hearing a push from some quarters to do none of it, and from others to do all of it right away. There is valid concern about the loss of affordable rental and condos, and the true viability of the proposed development economics and tenant protections.

The Broadway Plan is very large, very ambitious, and very long term. It has both good directions and significant weaknesses, as well as many unanswered questions. It does not need to proceed all at one time. Any Council action involves risks—but let them be appropriate and measured risks.

Thank you for considering our comments.

Trish French and Ronda Howard”

Concentrating on phasing the plan and evaluating the effectiveness of the strategy in five years is sound advice. Ensuring that the affordable rental apartment units already in the surrounding areas of Broadway are replaced ONLY with rental or non-profit housing will make redevelopment of these neighbourhood areas more palatable for existing residents, and a Council going to election in just over four months.

This also allows for the plan to ensure that schools, parks and amenities are adequately addressed and fold in to the Vancouver Plan which has yet to go to Council.

 

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