The corner of Pitt River Road and Mary Hill Bypass could soon see a lively corner of townhouses, apartments and shopping if Port Coquitlam council approves a plan to rezone a 2.37-acre property in the coming weeks.
The proposal reviewed by council-in-committee on Jan. 5 for a mostly treed property on the highway’s north side will also include 10 non-market rental housing units, according to the plan.
While the project by Cathedral Ventures provides as many as 121 apartment units and 16 townhouses, it won’t offer a break on home ownership costs, which concerned some councillors.
“I’m disappointed that the affordable ownership model was not able to be adopted here,” said Coun. Darrell Penner. “I think, in all frankness, we need to have different models of housing.”
His comments come after Cathedral nixed a plan to provided up to 6% in down payment help for new homeowners. Instead, the developer will provide 10 units for non-market rental housing as well as $2.3 million in density bonus money for community amenity and social housing amenity funds.
Planning manager Jennifer Little explained the developer decided to withdraw the home ownership initiative and pursue the city’s more typical non-market rental housing requirement instead.
“For this developer, it was a time issue. It was something they were wishing to move forward with compliance with the affordable and family-friendly housing policy,” Little acknowledged.
Still, the project drew favourable comments from councillors who lauded the effort to introduce commercial uses in the project, which could benefit other nearby Port Coquitlam residents.
The project’s plans would see the apartment and townhouse units constructed in four buildings, with as many as nine commercial units, which could be for eating establishments, food and beverage, home furnishing, leisure retail, recreation and spa type uses.
It will also include 279 parking stalls for residential, commercial and visitors, along with 14 parking stalls for commercial uses provided at grade.
For the city’s mayor, including some commercial uses is important for the area.
“There’s been quite a bit of support for what’s been discussed, particularly the idea of introducing more commercial opportunities or presence,” said Brad West.
The Pitt River Road project will also provide some outdoor space for garden plots, picnic areas and a playground; however, Coun. Steve Darling expressed a wish to see a daycare established in the facility.
HOUSING NEEDS STUDY
While an affordable home ownership initiative is not included in the project, Little said it could be among the different options examined when the city does an affordable housing needs study in the coming weeks.
There have been challenges in providing cheaper ways for people to buy homes in recent years. A Port Moody developer considered a plan to utilize BC Housing’s Affordable Home Ownership Program to reduce down payment costs.
But Bold Properties ended up with a rent-to-own scheme, in which 16 units will be offered to local purchasers through a rent-to-own program that allows them to put two years worth of rental payments toward their down payment.
Another Port Moody developer, Panatch, has also utilized a rent-to-own scheme to attract purchasers.
Little confirmed to the Tri-City News that the city will explore a number of affordable housing options when it addresses the issue this year.
“What we’ve heard in June from the committee was some appetite to consider a home ownership model. As we move forward, we do expect to be doing a housing needs assessment this year as well as looking at our density policy, and affordable and family friendly housing policy and some provisions for a home ownership model,” she said.
Mayor Brad West, meanwhile, is a strong proponent of non-market multi-family rental projects that are built with partnerships to provide low-cost affordable housing for residents.
Noting that the city will see the development of hundreds of units in three projects in the coming months in partnership with BC Housing, Metro Vancouver and others, he said it’s a model that has been successful.
The three projects at Kingsway Avenue, Prairie Avenue and Flint Street, and Welcher Street “are the projects that deliver the large infusion of non-market rental” compared to a few units in a larger market project, West said.
However, he acknowledged at Tuesday’s meeting that there is room for other types of housing as the city needs to be “mindful of our spectrum of housing needs in Port Coquitlam,” adding, “It will be important for us to ascertain whether the policies we have in place are meeting our objectives and needs and if we have evolution along the way that will be a good thing.”