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Plans for six-storey apartment moving ahead after split vote

A controversial apartment complex that would be Powell River’s tallest building got closer to reality last week.

In a split vote, council approved first readings for a housing agreement with Campbell River-based Veyron Properties, which is planning a 40-unit six-storey apartment on Franklin Avenue. The developer will provide some units specifically as affordable housing, with 15-year terms.

Some councillors were hoping for more affordable units and longer terms. However, others including Councillor George Doubt pointed out the developer has already made concessions, and the housing need is too great to risk losing the project.

“If we’re going to expect people to build a certain number of units with a certain number of bedrooms, then we need to have a bylaw that says that,” he said at the Feb. 1 council meeting. “I am not willing to accept the risk that if we put too many hurdles in the way, it won’t be built.”

Doubt says the city should develop a clearer and quicker process for housing projects that require affordable housing units, rather than the current ad-hoc, back-and-forth process.

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In a letter to council, the developer pointed out requiring any more affordable units, guaranteed to be available at below market rental rates, would make the project financially unattractive to lending banks.

The housing agreement moved forward by council will ensure three micro-units and three one-bedroom units will be available as affordable units, for the next 15 years. City staff had been trying to convince the developer to build two of each type, plus two more two-bedroom units, and make them available as affordable units for 25 years.

During the discussion, councillors pointed out affordable two-bedroom apartments are desperately needed in Powell River. Most were generally in favour of the project despite its potential impacts on the views of some nearby property owners; those who voted against wanted to see more affordable units required.

In total, the apartment will include 10 micro-units, 15 one-bedroom and 15 two-bedroom units.

The housing agreement will receive a final vote at an upcoming council meeting.

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