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Council sends 'affordable' housing project back to the drawing board

Proposed 111-unit apartment complex is not the right fit for the area, say councillors



A proposed 111-unit affordable apartment complex has received a cool reception from Village of Pemberton council.

The proposed project would involve two four-storey buildings, containing 54 and 57 one-bedroom micro apartments aimed at singles and couples.

Located on a vacant lot on 7360 Crabapple Court, across the street from the Mile One Eating House, the project, in its current from, is not a good fit for Pemberton, Councillor Karen Ross said at a Feb. 6 council meeting.

"The more I think about it, I just can't see a 111-unit building in that area," said Ross.

In its application, the project's proponent, Coombs Development Corporation, said it is seeking to develop "socially responsible and affordable rental housing options."

In order to get the project off the ground, Coombs is seeking financial support from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

But in order to get it, they say they need a number of concessions from the Village. These include reduced development levies (from $2,317.25/unit to $1,000/unit), a height variance to allow four floors, and a parking variance to reduce the number of required stalls.

To help its cause, Coombs asked council to send along a letter of support to the CMHC outlining some of the concessions it's wiling to make.

No one from Coombs was at the Feb. 6 council meeting. The proposal was first brought to council in January, where it was referred to municipal staff for review.

In a comprehensive report, town planner Lisa Pedrini questioned the composition of the project, noting that it would not serve seniors or families and does not accommodate disabled people.

"The kitchens are small with very little counter space for baking or storing foods bought in bulk, the murphy bed could prove difficult to maneuver, and the interior hallways are narrow for accommodating a wheelchair or walker," reads the report.

Pedrini also noted the rent — one-bedroom apartments would be offered for around $1,200 a month — was actually slightly more than the nearby Radius building when you factor in the cost of a parking space and an additional storage space.

"You would want to see something that feels subsidized and affordable if you're going to be handing out variances and concessions," said Pedrini, when presenting her report to council.

Pedrini also questioned the proponent's intention to charge slightly more for upper-level floors.

"If you're targeting low-income people, do you want to be charging (different prices) for the different suites? It sounds like something you might do in a hotel."

Following Pedrini's presentation, Coun. Ted Craddock outlined his opposition to the project, suggesting that it would be geared to a "transient" population.

"We've all said that we want to support affordable living. But at this point I don't see this as the right place and the right type of project," he said.

Coun. James Linklater agreed: "Certainly they'd need to change the concept... and I don't know if it's viable for them."

Mayor Mike Richman spent most of the debate facilitating conversation. Eventually, he suggested a course of action that was supported by council unanimously. "I'm going to suggest we write a correspondence to Mr. Coombs, saying that at this point we are not willing to write a letter of support, that the Village is committed and interested in finding affordable housing options if he'd like to bring another proposal back at a later date."

The Village reached out to the developer this week.