It’s not our intention to say that one municipality’s approach is good and one is bad. However, we found it interesting that two municipalities so similarly affected by the housing crisis are responding so differently. This article is a breakdown of two council meetings held on Oct. 18 and Oct. 19
When it got down to it, an information report on housing in Port Moody just wasn’t informative enough.
After an hour-long discussion on the provincially-mandated housing needs report, Port Moody council ultimately voted to have city staff investigate bringing back a more in-depth housing action plan.
Port Moody’s discussion was a stark contrast from Coquitlam’s council meeting. Following an extensive public hearing, Coquitlam council advanced four development proposals totaling 1,011 housing units in a space of about 17 minutes.
Port Moody’s housing needs report delved into the rise of home prices and the accompanying crash of affordability, as well as the 10.9 percent of Port Moody households who live in homes that are either unaffordable or inadequate.
That report ultimately amounted to: “generalities that we all already know,” said Coun. Hunter Madsen.
“I don’t know how to decide on the proposals that are being brought before this body,” he said, emphasizing the need for in-depth reporting on the need for affordability and unit mixes, particularly in high-density areas.
“We cannot sit around and take a year to come back with our housing targets unless you want us to sit around and take a year avoiding making big decisions downtown,” Madsen said.
New townhouses to be built on Burke Mountain
Coquitlam council voted unanimously to advance a 148-unit townhouse development which would replace six single-family homes on a 33-acre site.
Located primarily on the 3600-block of Victoria Drive, the development includes 43 three-bedroom units and 105 four-bedroom units.
OCP may need a second look
Port Moody Coun. Meghan Lahti underscored the need for a route to follow as opposed to a traffic report.
“How are we going to be able to ensure that the decisions that we’re making . . . that that’s what our community needs?” Lahti asked.
The city would likely need to retain an outside consultant to complete a housing action plan, explained city manager Tim Savoie.
“We just don’t have the capacity nor the expertise,” Savoie told council, explaining staff could return with a basic framework including a budget.
Port Moody should consider reviewing its official community plan, according to Jada Basi, principal with development consulting firm CitySpaces. CitySpaces completed the city’s housing needs report.
“The type of units that are being brought online are not meeting the needs of the community,” Basi said.
Coquitlam adds apartments
Coquitlam council approved a 422-unit apartment project in the neighbourhood sandwiched by Highway 1 and Lougheed Highway in a unanimous vote.
Situated over 21 properties on Alderson Avenue, Dunlop Street, Sunset Avenue and Euclid Court, the four-building, six-storey development got the green light over the objection of neighbours who described their own rezoning ambitions as being shunted aside.
If we build it, who will come?
On a fundamental level, council needs to know who they’re building for, Madsen said, noting housing needs across the spectrum.
“It looks like everything’s important and it’s pretty much every group who’s in a dilemma,” he said. “[It] shows how fundamentally impossible the local housing market has become for pretty much everybody except the region’s well-heeled real estate industry and their even greedier bankers.”
Coun. Diana Dilworth took exception to Madsen’s comments, suggesting council would do better to collaborate as opposed to: “beating builders down with a stick.”
“I’m somewhat embarrassed at times when every developer is called greedy and predatory,” she said. “You know what, we’re not going to get any housing or any new homes built in Port Moody without those builders who . . . create thousands of jobs and contribute millions of dollars in wages and spin-off benefits,” Dilworth said.
Dilworth also noted that council will be guided not only by the housing needs report but by transportation plans, the regional growth strategy and the city’s official community plan.
“We build for the young adults that are moving out of their parents’ home. We build for the young couples that want to get a toehold in the homeownership market.”
The report is a baseline of where the city is and where it has to go, Dilworth said.
Burquitlam gets another tower
Despite parking concerns, five houses located north of the Burquitlam Safeway are slated to be transformed into a mix of 349 condo and apartment units.
The project consists of one 29-storey, 246-unit condo tower next to a 103-unit, six-storey rental building spread over five lots on Claremont Street and Gardena Drive.
“Our goal is to make sure that that walkable, livable community is fully served by amenities,” Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said.
A future report should offer “tangible steps” council can take as well as policies Port Moody can lobby provincial and federal governments about, according to Mayor Rob Vagramov.
“Our national housing policy completely ignores the fact that our 18 year olds are competing with the world’s billionaires for . . . basic, basic housing,” he said.
There is a widespread, misbegotten notion that millennials don’t want to own homes, Vagramov said.
“Those things have been stolen from us,” he said.
In addition to having staff investigate a housing action report, council also moved to have staff report on how future large-scale developments march up with the city’s housing needs.
Townhouse development on Robinson
Coquitlam council supported a 92-unit townhouse development over 10 lots on Robinson Street and Seaton Avenue.
Located between Como Lake and Smith avenues, the project is slated to replace eight single-family homes and one duplex.