Seniors high-rise passes first hurdle in Langley

A debate over a seniors care project turned into discussion of affordable housing Monday.

A bid by one Langley Township councillor to add low-income housing to a seniors high rise project years in the planning was defeated Monday.

Council was considering a proposal for the first phase of a seniors complex in the 7700 block of 200th Street, to include 196 units of seniors housing in a 20-storey tower. The housing is to include a mixture of rental and strata housing, including different levels of care with the idea that many residents could age in place.

Councillor Kim Richter suggested that the developer turn 20 per cent of the units into affordable housing for low income seniors.

“I thought 20 per cent is a good place to start,” Richter said.

She noted that the project’s original form was planned 10 years ago by the land’s original owner, who was passionate about affordable options for seniors.

Richter also mentioned the large increase in homelessness, including seniors living on the street, in the last decade. The last homelessness count in Langley in 2017 found approximately 200 people living on the streets or in shelters around the community.

However, other councillors questioned whether it was possible to impose low-income housing on a project that was already well into planning.

“That is something that would potentially have to go back to square one,” said Ramin Seifi, the Township’s general manager of community development, when Richter asked about the possiblity.

“I think that would just kill this project,” said Coun. Charlie Fox of the idea.

“We do need seniors housing of all kinds,” he said. But he noted that this is phase one of several planned for the site, in the Jericho sub-neighbourhood area west of 200th Street.

There could be options to develop below-market housing in future phases, Fox said.

Coun. Michelle Sparrow agreed, and said an arbitrary number for affordable housing was not the way to go forward.

Getting affordable housing is complicated, suggested Mayor Jack Froese.

“It takes a lot of work, a lot of funding has to come through,” Froese said.

Adding affordable housing can increase the cost of the remaining housing in a project, Froese suggested.

Richter’s amendment was defeated 7-2.

If given final approval, the seniors project would become Langley Township’s first ever high rise. At present, the tallest residential structures are a handful of five- and six-storey condos buildings.

Because there are creeks on parts of the property, walking trails and greenways are envisioned, and it is adjacent to a community garden. There will also be about 6,000 square feet of rooftop terraces on the lower levels of the project, which will include gardens.

If it goes ahead, there could eventually be three more 20-storey towers built on and around the site, in different phases that could take 10 to 20 years to complete. This project is phase one.

The Jericho sub-neighbourhood plan was designed with high rises in mind.

Having been approved for first and second reading of a rezoning, the project now moves to a public hearing to be held in the near future. Council will then make a final decision.

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