Jubilee House at 508 Helmcken – proposed 36-storey 448 residential units.

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Vancouver’s Social housing shuffle

Mike Howell
Van. Courier

Jubilee House at 508 Helmcken St. The building may be torn down for a condo project. Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet , Vancouver Courier.

The bad news is the Jubilee House at 508 Helmcken St. that has 87 units devoted to social housing will probably be demolished.

If that happens, the good news is the residents of the Jubilee House will move into a new building across the street in the 1000-block of Richards Street that will include 162 housing units.

For all this to work, city council has to approve an application from Brenhill Developments Ltd. to construct a 36-storey tower with 448 residential units on the same site as Jubilee House.

It’s all part of an interesting land exchange that council is considering as it continues to find ways to get more social and affordable housing built in Vancouver.

On Tuesday, council referred Brenhill’s application to a public hearing. The staff report, however, made it clear the new 162-unit building must be built and have an occupancy permit before the tower can go ahead.

That’s because the city wants to ensure the current residents from the Jubilee get a place to stay and provide an additional 75 units to renters at the “low end of the market.”

The developer says it will kick in $24 million towards the $30.6 million construction of the social housing building and another $1 million for the city’s affordable housing fund.

The balance of the $30.6 million construction cost (up to $6.6 million) would be funded by the city from the proceeds of the sale of the Jubilee property to Brenhill.

Though the project is appealing to many, there are those who oppose it because of the tower’s height and scale, its effect on views, shadowing, more traffic and worries about “social issues” related to residents of the social housing building.

Supporters of the project say the neighbourhood is a good location for more social housing and the land exchange is a good way to get more housing built when senior levels of government are not providing the funding.

Additionally, supporters say the 1985-era Jubilee House needs repairs and there is a demand for more rental units in the city; at least 110 of the units in the tower will be for rent. The tower’s ground floor will also have retail and a private pre-school/kindergarten.

No date has been set for the public hearing.

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