One of the largest and oldest social housing projects in Vancouver may soon become much larger — and much newer.
City council's Tuesday agenda includes a proposal to redevelop the Skeena Terrace social housing project near Rupert Street and East Broadway.
B.C. Housing owns the site, which currently has 230 subsidized housing units in 20 apartment and townhouse buildings built over 60 years ago. About 600 people live on the hillside site, which is visible to drivers coming to and from Burnaby on Lougheed Highway.
The housing corporation has been seeking for several years to expand the site to 1,928 social housing units in 15 buildings four to 36 storeys high.
An artist's vision of the new site, as shown in B.C. Housing's application. Lougheed Highway is the curved, large road at the drawing's top and right. (Shawn Foss/CBC)
"The buildings and infrastructure at Skeena Terrace were built in the 1960s and need extensive and ongoing repairs," the B.C. Housing application to council states.
"As they are nearing the end of their economic life cycle, and with the city in dire need for more affordable housing, the redevelopment of Skeena Terrace as a large transit-oriented site is an excellent opportunity to meet that need.
"Skeena Terrace redevelopment provides a significant opportunity to increase the number of secured rental homes, particularly for low and moderate-income households."
City staff are recommending the project proceed to a public hearing in the spring.
"This rezoning application represents a significant delivery of affordable, publicly-owned housing for the city," the city's general manger of planning wrote, adding the project is "envisioned as a complete community in close proximity to rapid transit, providing housing, shops, services and community amenities."
A person walks by one of several playgrounds at Skeena Terrace. The redevelopment plan includes a daycare on site. (Shawn Foss/CBC)
Long-time resident excited about changes
B.C. Housing promises no one currently living at the complex will be unhoused because of the redevelopment.
A spokesperson said in an email that monthly meetings have been held with residents and existing tenants will get their first choice of new units without a rent increase "unless their income or unit size has changed in the interim."
Long-time resident Roberta Scherger is excited about the redevelopment. She says she's grateful to be living in social housing — "I could not afford rents out there," she said — but after about 30 years at Skeena Place, the buildings are showing their age.
Roberta Scherger says she's been happy living at Skeena Terrace but the buildings are showing their age. (Shawn Foss/CBC)
"Sometimes … like in the very, very bad winters we have, it's cold in my room," Scherger said, adding that B.C. Housing has been quick to fix problems.
She's optimistic about the new Skeena Place development, however, and is glad about commitments to keep the community together.
"A lot more people will have homes, which is great," she said. There'll be daycare … just more space for us, more garden space, more walking space, more safe space."
B.C. Housing says the project will be built in phases and has tentatively planned for a 2024 start.
A public hearing, if council approves, is expected for the spring.