The lack of affordable housing continues to dog the largest in-stream development project in Port Moody’s history.
Wesgroup’s Coronation Park project received mixed reviews during an early input session at city council on Feb. 21.
“There’s some real concerns about the inadequacy of this project in its current form,” Coun. Kyla Knowles said, voicing the concerns expressed by the land use committee in early February. “This development, to me, provides very little to the city in terms of helping us get ahead.”
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The developers are seeking rezoning to allow six towers ranging up to 31 storeys high and spread over almost 15 acres. More than 4,600 people would be added to the city’s population through the construction of 2,587 units, estimated to be completed over 10 years.
The plan includes two daycares for 194 children, a 2,000 square foot civic facility, 100,000 square feet of commercial space, a four-storey office building, a 2.5 acre public park and a new pedestrian overpass.
Almost all of the discussion at council centred around the lack of below market housing.
The vast majority of the units in the current proposal would be offered as strata units, 10 percent of which are being set aside for seniors. Only a small amount (3.8 percent, or 101 units) are being pitched as market rentals, alongside a rent-to-own program.
Coun. Haven Lurbiecki said the proposal needs to include affordable housing now.
She described the project as a “luxury development,” with triple the number of units built in Newport Village, and nearly double the units in Suter Brook.
She pointed to the city’s housing needs assessment, which stresses the need for “middle housing” – below-market rentals, larger sized family units, co-ops, social housing, seniors housing.
“There’s no affordable housing … the proposal is almost exclusively market condos,” Lurbiecki said.
Lurbiecki said that the 2020 OCP amendment, which granted Wesgroup a 55 percent increase in the site’s density, stated that rezoning would be contingent on the inclusion of affordable housing.
“This wasn’t a conversation, this is a motion of council, that this rezoning should not move forward without that 15 percent minimum met.”
She added that 30 percent of the Coronation Park neighbourhood is still slated for development, and that council’s actions would be viewed as precedent setting.
Brad Jones, Wesgroup’s senior vice president of development, said if a project is financially unfeasible under the city’s affordable housing policy, flexibility is allowed when other benefits are offered.
He said a financial analysis commissioned by the company found that their site, along with many other locations in the city, could not support the affordable housing requirements due to base land values being too high for the density permitted.
Jones said the company has engaged with BC Housing and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation as per the previous council’s demands, but the organizations won’t make a funding commitment at the conceptual stage.
“We had conversations with them, but weren’t able to get into the meat of it,” Jones said. “Those groups need the same certainty that we do and that our lenders do.”
Staff confirmed the city received Wesgroup’s financial analysis which is under review by a third-party consultant.
Mayor Meghan Lahti said that she didn’t disagree with some of the comments made by Lurbiecki, but Wesgroup has followed the city’s policy for the conditional rezoning.
“Whether we like it or not … That’s our policy,” Lahti said. “If we, as a council, don’t like that part of the policy, then we better change it because that will come forward, and we have other big developments coming forward.”
She suggested council a review of the policy was in order.
Coun. Diana Dilworth said she disagreed that the project does not do enough for the city, stating that it appeals to empty nesters looking to downsize.
She said there would be opportunities to tweak the development over the next decade as further phases come before council.
“We’d love to see much more affordable housing on that site, and how that can happen. Perhaps not in phase one, but in phase two, three and four,” Dilworth said.
“Every time this applicant has come to the city, they’ve been given a shopping list … At some point, we need to be bold enough to say, let’s approve this rezoning.”
Coun. Callan Morrison agreed, stating the developer has a good reputation for working with cities after approvals to help meet their needs.
He pointed out that Polygon Home’s site, directly adjacent to Coronation Park in Coquitlam, has more density, and less park and commercial space.
“Here we are closer to SkyTrain, and we’re putting less density on it. I think we are leaving a little bit on the table when it comes to the ability to fund infrastructure,” Morrison said. “I want to see this move forward.”