Opinion

Editorial: Don’t nix mixed oval housing

There’s a mix of all types of housing in every corner of Richmond, thanks to the wisdom of city planners who realized that creating ghettos was in nobody’s best interest.

But Richmond council is on the precipice of making a monumental mistake by letting a developer skirts its obligations to build affordable housing in the Richmond Olympic Oval precinct.

It would in effect be a very real third strike for council—after two previous swings and misses involving other developers who were given the green light to pay instead of build—which would in the end result create an exclusive neighbourhood of well-heeled residents lacking those of more modest economic status.

On Tuesday, the city’s planning committee heard a proposal backed by city staff that would allow Intracorp to donate $4.6 million instead of building 29 low-end market rental housing units at River Park Place in a stand-alone building.

Sure, that $4.6 million would be dedicated to building affordable housing in the downtown core—sensibly located near mass transit including the Canada Line—but at what cost?

Imagine the joy of this developer, who stands to benefit greatly from having no social housing near its 586 homes billed as “the new luxury.”

Who wants a dented old Honda to ruin the image of a gleaming Rolls Royce or Bentley by parking right beside them?

Does the developer stand to recoup some of that $4.6 million by being able to charge more for those 586 units simply by removing a perceived blight that would otherwise ruin their exclusive view?

In addition to this one project, two other council decisions last year are lining up to create a type of neighbourhood that city planners have for decades managed to avoid.

Last year, city council granted a similar exclusion that Intracorp is seeking to River Green and Parc Riviera.

It seems Coun. Chak Au is the only member of council who has the right perspective.

“In order to get a step in the door, they may promise it in the beginning. If we then let them backpedal in the middle of the stream, it’s unfair to everybody. That’s the kind of thing I want to prevent,” he said of developers.

Advocate De Whalen saw it similarly.

“How will the city ensure we have complete and vibrant neighbourhoods, with varying ages, ethnicities and income levels?” she said.

The reality of council’s decision is something we’ll all have to live with for decades to come.

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