2195 Gordon Avenue – Subsidized Housing or Not?

The 1.76 acre site at 2195 Gordon was purchased by District of West Vancouver (DWV) in 2014 for $16 million.
According to DWV this site, if sold for freehold strata condominiums, had a market value in 2019 of $80 million.
DWV has now approved the lease (99 years) of 24,000 square feet of the site to Darwin Properties who will develop the site for 58 strata condominiums for $22.2 million.
The remaining 52,000 square feet has been leased (60 years) to Kiwanis for $1 with the undertaking that they will provide an Adult Day Centre (Vancouver Coastal Health) and 156 “below market” rentals at a maximum of 75% of market rent.
The target market for the “below market” rental housing is moderate income people including workers, families and seniors in West Vancouver.
This development is an opportunity cost of $58 million that DWV is foregoing. That equates to a subsidy per unit of “affordable” housing of $372,000 per unit or approximately $3,600 per taxpayer.
Mayor’s comments in a letter to the North Shore news
“This project proposes leasing one parcel for affordable housing but it also includes a second parcel, a long term lease for strata condominiums which we sold for $22.2 million, a $6 million profit on our original $16 million investment”
The Mayor confuses cash flow with profit. How can anyone argue that a parcel of land worth $80 million sold for $22.2 million generates a profit?
“The word “subsidy” has been used frequently about this proposal but this is not accurate. All of this would be provided by, and at the cost of Kiwanis, Darwin and Vancouver Coastal Health with no ongoing subsidy by the District”
How can Kiwanis afford to build and operate the 156 “below market” rentals? This is because they are receiving a portion of land worth $58 million for nothing. There may indeed be no ongoing cash subsidy but by the essential gift of the land for 60 years is there not a huge upfront subsidy?

Other items and questions re Gordon Avenue worth noting
1- There was never any serious consultation with residents around various potential uses of this enormously valuable and strategic piece of land. Council just decided to spot zone and use the land for “affordable” housing. Surely there ought to have been consultation (in fact there was never any report to Council on possible differing uses for the land and the cost/benefit of each possible use). No surveys were conducted of employees in DWV businesses, school board or DWV to determine if this “below market” rental housing would meet their needs and help attract and retain employees. Surely this is not right?
2- An Angus Reid survey of DWV residents showed that 67% of residents do not support building more high density apartment buildings in West Vancouver. A West Vancouver Community Stakeholders poll showed that at least 85% of DWV residents opposed DWV using property taxpayer resources to fund subsidized “below market” rental housing. Why would Council not listen to residents?
3- The qualifying incomes (per DWV) for the” below market “rentals ranges from $50,000 for a studio to $126,000 for a 3 bedroom suite.
4- The top 10% of earners in Canada earn $80,000 or more and the top 5% earn $102,000 or more. Many DWV employees earn (before benefits) $80,000 or more. The individual median income in DWV is $41,000 and median household income is $90,000. Does it seem right that 50% of residents earning at or below median income are asked to subsidize housing for those earning substantially more than them? No one has a right to live in West Vancouver and have existing taxpayers subsidize them to do so. (Especially those earning more than the median income of many DWV residents).
5- This project does nothing to help low income workers (care home employees, retail employees, restaurant employees etc.) in West Vancouver as qualifying incomes for these rentals is more than the vast majority can afford. The biggest likely beneficiaries of the “below market” rentals will be Municipal and Schoolboard employees. There seems to have been no serious examination of what Provincial and Federal Grants available to provide housing for low income workers in DWV. Why?
6- DWV already faces $200 million of expenses in the next decade to replace ageing facilities and currently does not have dedicated reserves to meet this future expense. Is it responsible therefore to embark on a project such as this one for “below market” rental housing?

Graham McIsaac