Residents of a Kitsilano neighbourhood say they’re alarmed by the news the provincial government is changing legislation to push through a controversial social housing project. As Kamil Karamali reports, the housing minister isn’t ruling out using the same legislation in other parts of B.C. – Apr 18, 2023
The B.C. Supreme Court has thrown out a legal challenge to provincial legislation designed to ensure the construction of a controversial supportive housing project on Vancouver’s west side.
Vancouver city council approved the 13-storey development on Arbutus Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue in July 2022 following a heated six-day public hearing process.
The Kitsilano Coalition, a neighbourhood group, subsequently sought a judicial review of the city’s approval, after which the province — at the request of the city — passed legislation to guarantee the project’s construction.
The Kitsilano Coalition subsequently challenged that legislation, but on Thursday B.C. Supreme Court Justice Warren Milman ruled the Municipalities Enabling and Validating Amendment Act (MEVA 5) is constitutional.
The legislation declares both the city’s public hearing and its rezoning to be validly adopted by council, “despite any decision of a court to the contrary made before or after” it came into force.
Despite that clause, Milman ruled that “MEVA 5 does not directly ‘legislate the dismissal of a case or direct a court to give a specific judgment,’ and that it does not “cross the line… by insulating from judicial review a decision of the executive branch going to its own jurisdiction.”
Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said the decision clears another hurdle to construction of badly needed housing as officials seek to find homes for those currently sheltering in Vancouver’s parks.
“The court ruling, I think, is positive and it reaffirms the fact that, yes, there was extensive consultation done, and yes we need to get on with it,” Kahlon said.
“People had the opportunity to weigh in, and at some point we just need to make a decision so we can get housing built and get people indoors because I know it is going to get cold and we need to do that as quick as possible.
The proposed development will include 129 studio apartments for low-income people and those experiencing homelessness. A minimum of 50 per cent of units will be held for people who are currently homeless and on income assistance, with the other half for people earning earning between $15,000 and $30,000 per year.
More than 200 people signed up to speak to the city’s public hearing, with emotions high on both sides. Opponents argued the project was a “failed model of housing,” that would “warehouse” a high-proportion of proposed residents with complex issues. Opponents also raised concern about nearby schools.
Thursday’s ruling un-pauses the original judicial review application against the city, which was suspended in September pending the outcome of the MEVA 5 challenge.
The City of Vancouver said it has filed a response to the Kitsilano Coalition’s application, but that no dates have been set for a hearing.
Construction of the project had originally been scheduled to begin in 2022, but work has yet to begin at the site.
Metro Vancouver’s 2023 homeless count found more than 4,800 people experiencing homelessness in the region, up 32 per cent from 2020.
Last month, a coalition of Downtown Eastside advocacy groups warned that with winter coming, the region has just 1,500 shelter spaces.
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