Perhaps I am a little too suspicious. Perhaps the District is not so strategic. Perhaps we should recognize that the District is merely playing a part in a national conversation.
But doesn’t it seem a little more than coincidental that exactly one month before the Delbrook Lands workshop, the District released a survey on affordable housing? Could this be designed to raise the question of affordability to the top of our consciousness?
Asking if you would like to see more affordable housing in the District is akin to asking if we should keep drunk drivers off the road. Of course we want more affordable housing! We want places where young families can afford to raise our grandkids; we want homes so our senior friends can continue to live in our community; we don’t want to lose our neighbours to Langley just because they got a divorce.
The Delbrook Lands questionnaire is bullish on non-market housing, and I expect the facilitators will be too.
The most important factor to consider when evaluating this idea is:
Affordable non-market housing is identified as an important community need in the Official Community Plan
It would provide up to 40 units of lowrise apartments for low- to moderate-income households
The project could not happen without the District contributing land
The site is within walking distance of schools, parks, recreation facilities, and shops, and is located on a public transit corridor
The Province wants to partner with municipalities on affordable housing projects
A rezoning and Official Community Plan amendment would be needed, as the site is not zoned for residential and is not in a town centre
It could not proceed without external funding for capital and operating costs, which is not guaranteed
So there is a real danger that the workshop on Saturday is going to be designed to ride this wave of affordable housing, and the result will be a recommendation for some of the site to be set aside for this use, even though it will not solve the problem at all.
Of course, the only negative factor in the question about affordable housing lays out the next step: we can proceed with non-market housing only if we find capital and operating funds to pay for it. So, if you want to use a portion of the site for non-market housing, then you will also sign up to develop the rest of the site for market housing. The sale of the asset will pay the capital cost of construction, and the tax revenue will pay for the operations.
At the end of the day, if the District and developers have their way, we will get half-a-dozen non-market bachelor suites in the basement of a monstrous complex of foreign-owned empty mini-palaces.
I’m sorry, but I had really hoped for more.