North Van city entering the social housing game
The City of North Vancouver is making its first foray into social housing ownership, taking over six new rental units in Central Lonsdale.
The apartments are part of the mainly market-housing Kimpton low-rise condo development soon to be completed at the corner of West 13th Street and Chesterfield Avenue, one block west of city hall.
When the building opens it will mark the first time the city has owned social housing units within a market development, something city staff negotiated for in the developer's initial proposal.
"This is the first one where we've actually owned the units," Cheryl Kathler, community planner for the city told The Outlook in a phone interview Friday.
There are of course other mixed social and market housing developments in the city. But those are private arrangements between non-profits and building owners wherein the non-profit will rent a suite at full price and then provide it to their client at a subsidized rate. Many residents of those buildings won't even know if an apartment in their building is subsidized unless that tenant or owner tells them.
"That's private information," Kathler added. "We don't even know it necessarily."
But while the city plans to own these six Kimpton units, they have no plans to operate them. So now staff are on the hunt for a housing operator or co-operators to manage the units and collect the rent.
The city just put the call out to non-profit housing operators this week in the form of an online request for proposals to manage the five one-bedroom apartments and one studio apartment on the first and second floors of the Kimpton.
Non-profit groups have until March 28 to submit their proposals, plans and projected budgets to the city.
What isn't yet known about the non-market rentals is who they will target for residency; whether a specific hard-to-house group or low- to middle-income people who work and use services in the area. Wolfgang Beier, the city's purchasing manager and author of the request for proposals said that decision will ultimately be made by the successful applicants.
"We purposely haven't defined who we want in there. We think that these non-profits who understand social housing and the needs of people will come to us and tell us who deserves to be in there," Beier told The Outlook by phone Friday. "So we're looking for a wide range of proposals we'll take to council and then council will help us choose."
Just how many bids the city gets and from whom won't be known, even to Beier, until the March 28 closing date, he said.
"And we'd hope that within a month of that we'd have it up and running," Beier added. "But there's no fixed timeline. We'll take as long as it takes for us to find an operator."
The successful applicants will lease the units — valued at approximately $300,000-$350,000 each — from the city for a five-year term with the city having the option to renew the lease for five more years afterward.
"My understanding is they're not going to be really low rent unless the operator can come up with a subsidy," Kathler said. "They have to cover their costs and there's not going to be any subsidy coming from the city to help it pay strata fees and so on."
Kathler added that the typical rent in the city for a new one-bedroom in a concrete building like the Kimpton is between $1,600 and $2,000 per month. "It is [expensive] for a lot of working folks. Even a lot here at city hall."