Fourteen-storey tower with non-market rentals coming to Metrotown

Development proposal also includes a 47-storey, mixed-used tower

A new, 14-storey apartment building will be added to the Metrotown skyline.

But unlike other towers that have popped up in the neighbourhood recently, this one will consist of only non-market rentals.

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New Vista Society wants to build 125 non-market units at 6525, 6559 and 6585 Sussex Avenue, a site currently occupied by three low-rise rentals totaling 64 units.

The non-profit organization, which has provided affordable housing to seniors and families in Burnaby since 1945, currently owns and operates 540 independent living apartments and a 236-bed licensed residential care facility. 

The development proposal also includes a 47-storey, mixed-use tower facing Beresford Street.

The tower, located on the north portion of the site, would have retail space at the ground level, 10 storeys of office-commercial space, and residential units above, according to a staff report. There would also be townhomes along Sussex Avenue.

The project is a partnership between New Vista, B.C. Housing and Thind Properties Ltd. The site is owned by Thind, but as part of the deal, the City of Burnaby will fork over $5.6 million from its density bonus housing fund (money developers pay the city for increased density) to buy the land for the social housing tower. It will then lease the land to B.C. Housing at a nominal rate for 60 years, with B.C. Housing then leasing it back to New Vista. The mortgage is estimated to cost $35 million.

Besides the $5.6 million, the city will also give the non-profit $1.4 million in density bonus money to offset servicing and permit fees.

Meanwhile, B.C. Housing is prepared to commit up to $9.1 million to the project, according to the report, but the funding remains subject to executive and board approval.

Coun. Colleen Jordan, chair of the city’s planning and development committee, told the NOW she’s “really happy” to see a mixed-development with social housing in Metrotown.

“What I hope is that, perhaps, this can be a model for other development that goes forward,” she said. “We’re more than doubling the amount of housing that we’re losing. ... That’s the kind of thing we’d sure like to have the opportunity to do more of.”

Mayor Derek Corrigan praised the partnership.

“It couldn’t happen without the provincial government agreeing to subsidize the units for social housing,” he said.

“This kind of idea that’s painted out there of the rapacious developer really isn’t the case when you see a developer working like Mr. Thind has, with both the New Vista Society, the provincial government and the City of Burnaby to ensure this project was there and available to be utilized as part of his overall development.”

Rick McGowan with the Metrotown Residents’ Association, a group that has criticized the city for not doing enough to build affordable housing, said he was “pleasantly surprised” to hear of New Vista’s proposal. At the same time, he said, “it’s not enough.”

“It’s too late for the 500 households that have already been displaced. I think the city needs a proper affordable housing strategy,” McGowan added. “It should have been in place prior to the passing of the Metrotown plan update.”

In July, Burnaby council passed its Metrotown development plan – a mass rezoning of the neighbourhood that will increase density even further by replacing low-rise walk-ups with highrise towers. Up to 6,000 people will be displaced once all is said and done, he said.

May 2018 is the tentative construction start date for the Sussex site, according to a letter New Vista sent to the city earlier this year, and occupancy is slated for May 2021. The society will help existing tenants at Sussex Avenue find homes, stated the letter.

Other projects

In March, the city approved two proposals that will bring 200 non-market housing units to Burnaby.

3802 Hastings St.: SUCCESS will build up to 190 units, from studios to three-bedroom options.

7898 18th Ave.: New Vista Society will build up to 26 units, including one-bedroom and three-bedroom options.

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