Emotions ran high at a public hearing on Tuesday for an application to build a 150-unit non-market rental apartment building in Ladner, which Delta council unanimously agreed to reject.
The proposal by Red Door Housing Society would have seen the redevelopment of the 40-unit Ladner Willows low-income townhouse complex, located in the 5600-block of Ladner Trunk Road.
The project would have consisted of a five-storey building, including one storey of parking located partially underground and four storeys of residential above.
BC Housing would provide a grant for the project and an on-going operating subsidy.
The proposal involved applications for an Official Community Plan amendment, rezoning and development permit.
Representatives of Red Door Housing and the BC Non-Profit Housing Association spoke in favour, describing the need for more affordable housing.
Prior to the hearing, council received 19 pieces of correspondence with five in favour and 14 opposed. Within the letters of opposition was a 238-name petition against the development.
The majority of the over dozen speakers at the hearing voiced opposition, with residents saying they are not opposed to more non-market housing but were concerned about the scale, density and impacts to the neighbourhood.
One questioned why one neighbourhood should be burdened because the city hadn’t permitted more non-market housing in prior years.
Also speaking in opposition, a tenant of the Willows said she moved into a mouldy suite and has taken legal action against Red Door Housing as well has filed a Human Rights complaint, asking where current tenants are supposed to go if the project was approved.
Another tenant opposed conveyed several concerns including the consultation process.
Another tenant angrily accused the management of Red Door Housing Society of bullying as well as badly neglecting the complex, saying BC Housing had to be pressured to undertake mould remediation.
Noting the Ladner Willows was allowed to deteriorate, another speaker who lives near the complex asked why non-market housing could not be spread throughout the city, including being a requirement to be part of new high-density developments throughout Delta.
Saying other options should be considered, another area resident said Red Door Housing needs to be held accountable for the deterioration of Ladner Willows and treatment of the tenants.
Another irate speaker said the current building is “disgusting and deplorable and this shouldn’t be allowed to happen again.”
Living next door to the current complex, Graham Jones said they managed to collect the signatures on the petition within just a few days. He noted they aren’t opposed to social housing but the large-scale proposal was too much, creating negative impacts to parking and other concerns.
Red Door Housing has a long way to go to repair its reputation, he said.
“Our concerns are echoed widely throughout our community," said Jones. "Over and over, people said they are in favour of some social housing but not to the detriment of our community. Over and over, people complained that five storeys is too much and 150 units is too much…Right now, it feels like they (Red Door Housing) are coming into this small community like an elephant, building an oversized, over-dense complex. That is not the appropriate message Red Door should be pushing forward. We believe Ladner deserves a proposal that treats the neighbours and the neighbourhood with more respect."
Mayor George Harvie during council’s discussion following the public hearing said he wanted a denial of the application.
Coun. Lois Jackson agreed, wondering how the current building fell into its current condition.
City manager Sean McGill said bylaws was involved and that the mould remediation was undertaken after the bylaws department got involved.
Jackson also wondered if it was good community planning to concentrate so much social housing in one location, adding Delta needs to find a better way and that BC Housing has much to answer for.
Coun. Alicia Guichon said she was shocked to hear the accusations against Red Door Housing.
Also questioning Red Door Housing, which owns the property, Coun. Jeannie Kanakos agreed a project needs to fit in a community and not harm it.
Saying Red Door Housing needs to come back to the drawing board, she later described the current situation as “embarrassing.”
Coun. Dylan Kruger said it is clear more work is needed by Red Door Housing to rebuild trust. He also said the city has a housing crises but the right developments are needed for everyone.
Harvie said he has no confidence in Red Door Housing and that he will ask Delta staff to look into having the property owner address ongoing concerns.
Also acknowledging the need for more social housing, Harvie added he doesn’t know if Red Door Housing is the right company, but he wants staff to work with the property owner to come back with a more suitable development.