With files from Simon Little
Nearly seven years after the demolition of the Little Mountain social housing complex, its replacement is finally going to council tomorrow.
The Holborn Group is planning 234 units of replacement social housing for the property located near Queen Elizabeth Park, including about 1,500 condo units, along with a 69-space child care facility, over 32,000 square ft. of commercial space, and a public plaza with accompanying park.
It all sounds like a positive step forward, but for Ingrid Steenhuisen it’s too little too late.
Steenhuisen was one of the few residents to defy eviction back in 2007 when the City of Vancouver and BC Housing signed the memorandum for sale and redevelopment of Little Mountain, asking residents to leave in preparation.
“There was no need for things to be done the way it was done. Forcing people out so early. A lot of people in 2007 being told that they would be able to move back by the summer of 2010.”
A community torn apart and families ejected from their homes
The move displaced about 600 people, each one making up part of the community Steenhuisen had grown accustomed to since her arrival to Little Mountain in 1957.
“It was like one large extended family. I mean, everybody knew everybody. You might not have liked everybody, but at least you knew them.”
The lot has sat practically vacant ever since, with the exception of one building which opened in 2015.
Project’s mild progress caused a mixed reaction
At the time of its opening, Mayor Gregor Robertson praised the progress in a BC Housing release.
“Located in the heart of our city, Little Mountain is a neighbourhood with an important place in Vancouver’s history. Managed and operated by More than a Roof, today’s opening of 53 affordable apartments for seniors is an important milestone in our work together to build an inclusive and vibrant new community at Little Mountain.”
But opposition has argued that these 53 units aren’t enough to make up for all that was lost. In a 2015 interview with CKNW, New Democrat MLA George Heyman, stressed the point that government had promised 234 units to be built by 2010.
“Only that side of the house could be five years late, deliver just 20 per-cent of their promise, and then brag about it.”
In addition to this, housing minister Rich Coleman admitted to CKNW there has been a delay in meeting the targets set for the development.
“Everybody that was on Little Mountain was housed, everyone has been supported in the marketplace since, they have the right to come back when the project is complete if they wish to.”
Residents welcome to return, but can’t wait forever
But not everyone will get the chance to settle back into their former home. In 2014, CKNW reported that Sammy and Joan Chang, a blind, elderly couple who had lived near Queen Elizabeth Park since the mid 1970’s, both passed away before their rental unit was complete.
So what’s taken so long? That’s the question people will have the chance to ask at tomorrow’s public hearing, despite nearly a decade without answers.
The province says the $300 million from the land sale has since created more than 2,000 new housing units across B.C.