Press Release: UNITE HERE joint press conference with the Vancouver Tenant’s Union and Arbutus Village residents

Residents and advocates say Arbutus Mall developer undercuts City of Vancouver’s housing strategy, planning process

Vancouver – Arbutus residents, housing advocates and hospitality workers are urging Vancouver City Council to vote against a new rezoning amendment for Arbutus Centre (2133 Nanton Avenue). The groups want the city to reject the developer’s proposal because it betrays an earlier agreement with residents and falls short of meeting affordable housing targets. The amendment will come before Council at a public hearing next Wednesday, July 18.

The groups urging Council to vote against the amendment include: the Arbutus Ridge Community Association (ARCA), the Vancouver Tenant’s Union, Arbutus Village Strata Association-Strata Plan VR 222, and UNITE HERE Local 40, the hospitality workers union.

At today’s press conference, the groups criticized the developer’s eleventh-hour attempt to squeeze in extra height for two towers at Arbutus Mall. The developer, Larco Investments, is citing the city’s housing crisis as their rationale to add more units to the project, which is already under construction. However, the proposed amendment will undercut a rezoning agreement reached with the community in 2011 that kept building heights low and was intended to retain the public viewpoint from Quilchena Park.

The developer was originally granted approvals to build 500 units, 400 of which were designated strata and 20 percent for social housing in 2011. Larco’s new proposal will add another 127 units at Arbutus Mall. In exchange, Larco is offering the city only 91 secured rentals – out of 627 total units planned under the new amendment – and a small and unspecified number of below-market rentals. The city recently raised the social housing requirement for large development projects to 30 percent, up from 20 percent. Yet, Larco’s social housing contribution at Arbutus Mall – the type of major development project this should apply to – will stay at just above 20%.

“The proposed secured rentals and social housing that Larco is offering is a drop in the bucket considering Vancouver’s housing crisis. We question why the city is willing to settle for so little. Many of these units will be out of reach for Vancouver’s working families. Ironically, Larco – like many local developers – is also a major hotel owner. We represent some of Larco’s hotel employees and question how many of them will be able to afford to live in Larco’s development,” said Octavian Cadabeschi of UNITE HERE Local 40.

One of the groups raised concerns about the sizeable proportion of market strata units in Larco’s Arbutus development.

“The price of these “market rate” units is determined by real estate investment and land speculation, rather than peoples’ incomes. Densifying this area with condos will only lead to another spike in land values, and it will be the renters and seniors living in Arbutus Ridge who will pay the price,” said Sydney Ball, a representative of the Vancouver Tenant’s Union.

Nearby residents say they feel betrayed by Larco’s new proposal which undermines earlier compromises reached after years of consultation and negotiation that led to the original 2011 rezoning.

“The Arbutus Ridge Community Association (ARCA) has been monitoring the Arbutus Centre redevelopment plans since 1992, when Larco bought the property. After years of community consultation, the developer got a very good deal with the 2011 rezoning agreement. It is insulting that Larco would come back for more after all that negotiation, and it is hard to believe that the city would seriously consider their offer,” said Doreen Braverman, past president of ARCA.

The groups are urging Council to demand more from the developer, including serious negotiations with the community and a significant increase in affordable units. Otherwise, Council should vote against Larco’s proposed amendment.

For more information, please contact:

Octavian Cadabeschi, UNITE HERE, 604-813-2105, or [email protected]

Doreen Braverman, ARCA, (604) 263-6051, or [email protected]

Sydney Ball, Vancouver Tenants Union, [email protected]

Tom Hugues, Arbutus Village Strata Association-Strata Plan VR 222, (778) 223-3401, or [email protected]