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West Vancouver proposes subsidized housing for working professionals
Homes in West Vancouver have become so unaffordable that even those with middle class household incomes need subsidized housing to live in the municipality, according to recent proposal from council.
Officials are considering building 170 units of what it calls "workforce housing" designed for professionals such as teachers and first responders.
The units would be offered at 70 per cent of market value and are meant to give those who work the community the opportunity to also live there.
"No one that lives here works here and no one that works here lives here," said Mary-Ann Booth, a mayoral candidate who supports the project, adding that "$100,000 or $75,000 used to be enough to buy or even rent a place in West Vancouver and that is no longer the case."
Last month, councillors voted unanimously in favour of conducting public consultations on two designs for the project, which would be built in 2100 block of Gordon Avenue on land the municipality bought from Vancouver Coastal Health back in 2014.
According to Booth, a non-profit would be in charge of determining who is eligible for a subsidized unit.
The proposal comes as sky-rocketing prices drive young professionals out of West Vancouver, where seniors are now a growing part of the population.
Booth said 75 per cent of the workforce could once afford to live in the municipality, but that number is now "completely reversed," with only 25 per cent of workers now able to pay for housing.
West Vancouver is the only municipality in the region that has seen its population fall during the last five years, leaving proponents of the project such as West Vancouver Teachers Association president Renee Willock concerned for the community's future.
"When I started working here in 1991, teachers did live on the North Shore and teachers did live in West Vancouver and that has really, really shifted," she said.
According to Willock, only 13 per cent of teachers who work in West Vancouver also live in the city. Of those, half are beginning teachers who live with their parents. The other half are nearing retirement and bought into the market a long time ago. The rest commute from all over the region.
"We are losing teachers. It's getting harder to attract teachers to the district and there's been a lot of turnover," she said, stressing how important it is that the subsidized housing units be built.
"I think you have to ask yourself, what's it going to cost your community not to? What does a community look like when your entire workforce is migrant, coming in every morning, leaving every evening? Where does the vibrancy of the community come from?"
Willock said she'd like to see teachers, first responders and other professionals she considers "essential to the community" be given first priority if the housing project moves forward.
But Christine Cassidy, another mayoral candidate, says West Vancouver residents, particularly seniors on pensions, should be the ones who ultimately get to decide whether tax dollars are used to cover housing costs for working professionals.
"The question is: Is the public prepared to subsidize teachers, police, firefighters, etc.," she told CTV. "Are they prepared to subsidize what they may well see as mid- to high-income earners? That is the question for them to be asked and for them to decide."
The public will have its say about whether the majority of this project will be subsidized workforce housing and so will a new mayor and council. Consultation and the final vote will take place after the Oct. 20 municipal election.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson