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Affordable housing at Oval Village may be axed

Trading cash for units perpetuates exclusivity: Whalen

Yet another controversial proposal by city planners and a developer in the Richmond Olympic Oval area threatens the integrity of the city's affordable housing strategy.

That's the opinion of Richmond's Poverty Response Committee spokesperson De Whalen.

"The road they're going down is they're creating enclaves, so the rich are by the Oval and then there's everywhere else," said Whalen.

The $4.6 million cash proposal to nix affordable housing units in the increasingly exclusive neighbourhood was referred back to city staff by councillors on Tuesday in a bid to maintain at least some of the 29 affordable units at Intracorp's 586 unit project at 6888 River Rd. and 6900 Pearson Way (near the Oval).

In 2013, council dropped affordable units from the River Green project.

The cash is needed to fund subsidized units at a future 129-unit, city-funded housing project on

Granville Avenue (east of No. 3 Road) designed for people with special needs.

Why such a large amount is required for a project that has been several years in the making cannot be disclosed.

"I'm not able to go into that at this time. The financing details have been in closed meetings," said Mayor Malcolm Brodie.

"I don't want the development community to be giving us cash instead of units," but, "we have specific commitments and, in terms of Granville, we need interim funding as part of this project, and it's a real exceptional circumstance," said Brodie.

Under the city's affordable housing strategy, five per cent of any 80-plusunit development must meet affordable housing guidelines.

Whalen says these kinds of aboutfaces run counter to the city's supposed objectives. And while she's pleased the city has a strategy, she says little is done for low-income residents on the whole.

"No new housing is being created for low-income people. You have to have special needs to get housing at Granville, and the Kiwanis project is

for seniors," she said, referring to the city's two major affordable housing projects that are in the works.

"The affordable housing strategy speaks to creating complete neighbourhoods. You've got rich and poor, seniors and youth, and everybody living in one neighbourhood," she noted.

Coun. Evelina Halsey-Brandt said she thinks the city can use excess casino revenue for the Granville project.

"I'm not willing to accept any money. I want nothing but the units," said Halsey-Brandt.

Brodie said such excess funds don't exist. Nevertheless, with the referral, city staff have been directed to try to find other funding sources.

Both Halsey-Brandt and Brodie acknowledged the desire to build inclusive neighbourhoods.

"I don't want to see an exclusive Oval precinct that's without affordable housing," said Halsey-Brandt.

"I'm not against the developer making profit. He needn't make an obscene profit, but he needs to give back to the community," she added.