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Richmond mulls cash-in-lieu deal for ‘luxury’ condos

Intracorp is seeking to give the city cash instead of building 29 affordable rental apartments in its River Park Place development.  - Intracorp artist’s rendering
Intracorp is seeking to give the city cash instead of building 29 affordable rental apartments in its River Park Place development.
— image credit: Intracorp artist’s rendering

A developer’s request to forgo the addition of affordable rental apartments in its luxury Oval Village project is giving pause to elected officials.

After granting permission to two developers last year, Richmond councillors are giving greater thought to the latest request to provide cash in lieu of affordable housing, referring the matter back to staff at a planning committee meeting Tuesday.

Intracorp had planned to construct a standalone building with 29 low-end market rental housing units as part of River Park Place, a multi-tower development of 586 homes billed as “the new luxury,” and located near the Richmond Olympic Oval.

It’s seeking council’s permission to pay $4.6 million into the city’s affordable housing fund instead of building the rental units. The figure is based on the five per cent affordable housing required in exchange for a density bonus.

City staff recommended approval, and suggested using the cash to boost a part-city project at 8111 Granville Ave., which is expected to provide over 100 subsidized rental housing units by spring 2016.

The planning committee hasn’t ruled Intracorp’s plan out but wants to explore other options first, including a partial cash-in-lieu contribution that could still see some affordable units built near the oval.

Coun. Bill McNulty, committee chair, said Richmond is falling behind in affordable rental housing, and said he’d like to see it integrated in new projects.

“We need to encourage people to include that in major developments,” he said. “On this one, we’ve got to be careful because it’s by the oval. Are we saying that we don’t want any rental housing over by the oval?”

A year ago city council voted 8-1 to grant the exclusion to developers of two new riverfront communities. Council dropped the requirement for the neighbouring River Green, and Parc Riviera on the North Arm. Coun. Chak Au was alone in opposition, saying at the time he feared council was giving developers a strategy.

“In order to get a step into the door they may promise it in the beginning,” he said. “If we then let them backpedal in the middle of the stream, it’s unfair to everybody. That’s the kind of thing I want to prevent.”

At a public hearing, advocate De Whalen warned council Richmond would become a city of “rental ghettoes” if developers get their way.

“How will the city ensure we have complete and vibrant neighbourhoods, with varying ages, ethnicities and income levels?” she said. “I fear that…we will end up with rental ghettos and that all of the developers’ obligations to provide affordable housing will be lumped into one zone.”

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