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Subsidies for Green Developments

A high-end, sustainable rental development in South Vancouver is receiving government subsidization, raising questions as to how public money should be spent amid a housing crisis.

The Spire Landing development on Fraser and 57th will be the largest multi-unit passive house in Canada.
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Reported by Gabrielle Plonka

A high-end, sustainable rental development in South Vancouver is receiving government subsidization, raising questions as to how public money should be spent amid a housing crisis.

Spire Landing, which will be constructed before the end of this year on Fraser and 57th Street, will include 95 rental units, meaning that it qualifies for the City of Vancouver’s Rental 100 Program and that development costs will covered by public funding. This subsidization allows the units to be rented at below market rates, which is currently $1,730 for a one-bedroom and $2,505 for a two-bedroom in South Vancouver.

The building will also have Passive House certification, which requires extensive insulation to save energy on heating, as well as a rooftop garden, lounge with wrap-around terrace, a communal music room, electric car charging stations and a fitness centre.

According to Josephine Kwan from Spire Development Corporation, the decision to build according to Passive House standards was influenced by the City of Vancouver’s goal to become the greenest city in the world by 2020.

Green standards are the future

“This technology aligns with and is endorsed by the City of Vancouver. They believe that this high-performance standard is the future for Vancouver living,” Kwan said.

According to Tsuriel Somerville, director of the UBC Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate, while Vancouver is in desperate need of more affordable housing, the subsidies for more luxurious developments have long term benefits.

“In theory, environmental sustainability is supposed to be economically sustainable too,” said Sommerville, adding that commercial properties have seen this success due to financial analysis getting done at a higher level and including willing investors.

“Getting residential folks to get on board, even for apartment buildings, can sometimes take a little effort.”

Neighbours fear eviction

Cresencio Paragas, who rents across the street from the Spire Landing site, worries that as more luxurious rental options come in, current residents will be displaced and forced to move.

“I hope the city could also help the small people like us who have been renting for more than ten years, for so high,” said Paragas, who rents his one-bedroom for $1,500 a month. His home is one of three on the block that were recently placed on the market, meaning he’ll be evicted if it’s sold.

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