Cassie Long, rental property manager, speaks with city councillors at an open house for proposed redevelopment of Woodland Village. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

Woodland Village tenants in Port Alberni say no to condos

Port Alberni redevelopment keys on condominiums to increase units

BY MIKE YOUDS

Special to the News

A proposal to redevelop aging townhouses as condominiums and increase the number of rental units in the city sounds like a win-win on paper.

In a city with a chronic shortage of affordable rental accommodation, transforming 38 units into 144 seems to make sense.

Current residents are not so sure they’d come out on top, though.

Preliminary plans to redevelop Woodland Village townhouse units into condo-style apartments had a cool reception from tenants of the property who attended an open house last week.

“We would be offered them at below market value,” said Kelly Thomson of the deal offered tenants. “But we don’t know what market value will be. It’s not what we’re paying now.”

Built in 1977, the townhouse complex in the 4200 block of Eighth Avenue is comprised of seven two-storey buildings with 38 units. As proposed, the first phase of redevelopment would include four five-storey buildings of 144 units, a mix of underground and surface parking.

The development, which had a positive reception when first brought before council on July 8, would require rezoning to medium density from low density residential. A public hearing is set for Aug. 12, 6:30 p.m., in council chambers.

Architect Raymond de Beeld, who has applied for the rezoning, explained that the two adjoining properties are held by three owners. Redevelopment would occur in phases, allowing current tenants some flexibility during construction.

“It’s really being driven by a lot of maintenance required for the buildings,” de Beeld said. Maintenance costs on the townhouses have made them uneconomical as rental properties, he added.

The open house was sparsely attended, but three city councillors were on hand.

“I actually drove by and I think it’s going to fit in nicely with the surrounding area,” said Councillor Debbie Haggard. Any opportunity to add to the city’s rental inventory is welcome, she added.

“Hopefully, people won’t lose their accommodation,” said Councillor Ron Corbeil, cautioning that the proposal is at a preliminary stage.

“We’ll have to wait for the public hearing,” before passing judgment, Haggard added.

The owners have committed to giving current tenants four months’ notice and one month rent-free prior to construction. Tenants will also have the right of first refusal on the new units.

None of the residents at the open house favoured the proposal.

They indicated that fellow tenants feel the same, not wanting to give up their townhouses for smaller units. A number reside with relatives in order to share existing rental costs, which range from less than $700 to 1,200 monthly. They’re also concerned about loss of open areas and back yards.

“I don’t want it done at all. I like it as it is,” said Tracy Geddes. “I have two special needs kids; they do not like change.”

Thomson said there is a shortage of affordable rental accommodation in the city.

“Port Alberni is not offering us anywhere else to go. There’s nothing else to rent,” she said.

She doubted that the local rental demand is sufficient to fill the 300 units that would enter the market if the whole property were redeveloped.

Cassie Long, rental manager for the property, said she expects a shortage of tenants for the 120 additional units that would come on stream in the first phase.

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