Coquitlam council approves Burquitlam apartment complex in 7-2 vote

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Despite concerns about an abundance of studio units and a host of investment opportunities, a two-building apartment complex is set to be built near Burquitlam SkyTrain station following a 7-2 vote from Coquitlam council on Monday.

The Quantum Properties project – which consists of two connected six-storey buildings totalling 120 units on Tyndall Street, presents a risk to the city, according to Coun. Robert Mazzarolo.

“We’re not really solving any problems here,” Mazzarolo said.

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Mazzarolo has previously argued in favour of adding more three-bedroom units to Coquitlam’s housing mix.

However, with 51 one-bedroom units and 30 studio units, the mid-sized project could allow for a similar composition of small units in major developments, Mazzarolo suggested.

There is something that would stop developers from adding so many studio units, noted Coun. Craig Hodge: “If we change the rules.”

Coquitlam allows for a maximum of 30 percent of the units in a new development to be studios. The Quantum development also includes 12 three-bedroom units and 27 two-bedroom units.

Hodge was one of several councillors who explained that, while they might have concerns regarding the number of studio units, they wouldn’t vote against a project that conforms to city guidelines.

It’s unfair to set rules for a developer to follow and then to tell that same developer: “Well, we don’t like the rules we set,” Hodge explained.

Coun. Matt Djonlic joined Mazzarolo in voting against the project.

“I just can’t support this with 25 percent studios,” Djonlic said.

Coun. Teri Towner defended the inclusion of studio units, underscoring the needs of downsizing seniors and noting that one-person households constitute a large portion of Coquitlam residents.

“If they can get into the market for a studio, people would rather pay a mortgage than rent,” Towner said.

Mayor Richard Stewart concurred, objecting to the idea the building wouldn’t be appropriate for families.

“So many of our new residents come from places where they grew up not knowing a backyard. They grew up in an apartment building, so I don’t have a problem with the idea that some families will be raised, some children will be raised, in apartments,” he said.

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During a previous discussion, a few on council suggested the development might pit the public against investors.

“This is rife for the small investor or mid-size investor to come in . . . and snap up three or four or five units,” Coun. Dennis Marsden summarized when the project was up for first reading.

Marsden acknowledged his previous comments but on Monday said it would be “hypocritical” to change city guidelines mid-meeting.

Quantum Properties CEO Diane Delves refuted the charge that the project was being built with investors in mind.

“That is not our motivation,” Delves said when being questioned by Mazzarolo. “We’re quite keen on getting first-time buyers into the market.”

The company frequently facilitates a layaway program to allow first-time buyers to make their deposit while the building is under construction, she added.

During Monday’s meeting, Mazzarolo emphasized the high cost of certain rental units.

Monthly rents at strata rental units tend to be between 30 and 40 percent higher than for purpose-built market rentals, according to a recent housing report.

The studios range from 385 to 450 square feet. The project’s 12 three-bedroom units are projected to be between 929 and 981 square feet.

Located amid single-family homes on Tyndall between Como Lake and Jefferson avenues, the development would be about a 700-metre walk from Burquitlam SkyTrain station. An eight-storey project is set to be built to the east of the project.

If the project receives final approval, owner and applicant Quantum Properties Arcadia LP would owe the city approximately $3.043 million in development cost charges, community amenity contributions, and cash for the city’s child care reserve fund. Quantum is expected to pay for $132,000 worth of transit passes to help manage transportation demand.

The project requires one more formal vote from council before construction can begin.

Related: Investors own 19 percent of Coquitlam houses, condos

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