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Public hearing Tuesday for Port Moody condo project across from middle school

Project once included 57 micro-suites smaller than 300 sq. ft.
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A rendering of a six-storey condo project being proposed for James Street in Port Moody.

A public hearing will be held Tuesday (Feb. 1) for an 88-unit condo complex on James Road in Port Moody that at one time touted 57 micro-suites smaller than 300 sq. ft. as a solution to the city’s housing affordability crisis.

But concerns raised by council about the liveability of the tiny spaces caused local developer Bill Laidler to reconfigure the project, reducing the total number of units from 111, of which 38 will now be studio apartments a least 410 sq. ft. In size.

Also, 20 one-bedroom suites were excised bringing their total to 29, while 14 two-bedroom units were added— from five to 19. Five three-bedroom apartments are also now part of the project.

When Laidler made his first presentation about the project to council in the spring of 2020, he said the micro-suites would appeal to students, working professionals and seniors and would be constructed with “smart” features like stowaway storage and adjustable furniture to maximize the available space. He said the concept has proven successful in cities like Seattle, where they’ve become an affordable option in an expensive market.

But councillors balked at the plan. They said the tiny units were more appropriate to a dense urban environment with lots of amenities like restaurants and shops nearby. The proposed complex is located across James Road from Port Moody Middle School, about midway between the Moody Centre and Inlet SkyTrain stations.

Councillors also worried the micro-suites would attract investors, actually driving up the cost of housing in the city.

The revised configuration, that was presented to council last December, found more favour.

In addition to the new mix of units, the developer is also committing to rent 15 per cent of the units at 15 per cent below market rates for the next 10 years. Buyers who live or work in Port Moody will also get first priority when units go on sale.

“I think this has come a long way,” said Mayor Rob Vagramov, although a staff report recommended there’s still further to go as the city’s interim affordable housing guidelines stipulate affordable rental units should be secured for at least 60 years and Coun. Hunter Madsen successfully put forward an amendment to council’s first reading requiring the commitment on the rental units be doubled to 20 years.

The hearing convenes at 7 p.m. with council’s third consideration of the zoning bylaw amendments required for the project to proceed following immediately afterwards.