Architectural drawing of the development application for 33162 and 33164 3rd Avenue.

Council moves forward on 33-unit development, but want bigger affordable units

4 affordable units all have single bedroom, councillors say that does nothing for families

  • May. 7, 2021 12:00 a.m.

Mission council has moved forward on a 33-unit, five-storey downtown development, but have told staff to ask the developer for larger affordable units for families.

The over-8,500 square-foot development on 33162 and 33164 3rd Avenue will require rezoning, and a public hearing is being set for the next available date.

Although council unanimously approved the project moving forward, they expressed some concerns.

“One bedroom suites are probably the cheapest they could offer us on our incentive package to meet their requirements, and I’m really getting concerned as to how this fits our demand, or our aim with what we’re trying to achieve,” said Coun. Cal Crawford. “One-bedroom suites don’t make a large family.”

The issue of developers taking advantage of affordable housing incentives, yet only offering the bare minimum in terms of unit size has been brought up at recent council meetings.

Only four of the 33 units will be offered at affordable rates (10 per cent – the minimum required for increased density), and all of the units have only one bedroom. The rest will be sold at market prices.

Coun. Carol Hamilton said she would like the developer to offer two two-bedroom suites as affordable, “Because that is the gap for a single mom and one or two children.”

To keep up with the goal set in the 2020 to 2024 Housing Needs Assessment, the District needs to build 150 units of new rental stock and 149 of market home ownership for the year. It’s still lagging behind from last year’s goal, however, especially when it comes to affordable units.

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Staff said the reason some recent application’s affordable suites have lacked diversity is because of the lack of “well-developed affordable housing strategy,” which is currently in development by the District.

If the application receives final approval, the developer will need to sign a housing agreement, which locks the rentals in place for 20 years and controls rent, as well as make a deposit with the municipality until an occupancy permit is granted (the final cut-off date being the end of 2024).

The development site is surrounded by single-family dwellings, low-density apartments, and a vacant lot directly west of the building, sandwiched between a recently approved six-storey development.

Mission Central Elementary and transit stops are a short walk away, and the Mission Leisure Centre is a kilometre to the north.

The vacant lot was another concern for several councillors, who asked why it hasn’t been worked into either of the developments.

“What do you do with an orphan lot now?” said Coun. Danny Plecas. “I just don’t understand why it’s not a requirement that we do a land assembly to completely get a true development across.”

Staff said that developers tried “to no avail,” but the property is caught up in a life estate, which is difficult to resolve.

The developer is required to have 38 parking stalls to take advantage of the Downtown Development Incentive Program, but the application proposes it be allowed to have 33 due to space constraints.

Coun. Danny Plecas said he was “very challenged” by this request.

“We have parking issues already downtown,” he said. “We’ve gone the extra mile for the downtown-incentive program, as well as the bonus density program. And yet, he’s now asked for another five-lot exemption.”

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Mission City Record