May 6, 2015 12:52 am
Updated: May 8, 2015 2:53 pm

New Vancouver highrise to have separate ‘poor doors’ for social housing residents

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WATCH: A common practice among condo developers is coming under fire. Separate entrances for those living in social housing units and those who pay market value. Ted Chernecki explains why developers do it and why some say it should be banned.

West End condominium project has been criticized for having separate entrances for condo owners and residents who live in social housing units.

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The 19-storey highrise includes 28 social housing units and 63 units purchased at market value. Condo owners will access the building from Jervis St. while social housing residents will use a Davie St. entrance.

“We’re creating in the infrastructure a separation between the upper class and lower class, so to speak,” said community activist Randy Helten. “It parallels other stuff that’s going on in society like with health care and the education system and so on.

“When it comes to housing, it’s really a good topic to discuss and it should be done in public.”

There was no public hearing for the proposed highrise at 1171 Jervis St.

Helten said “a small panel of four public servants here at City Hall made the decision yesterday in about an hour.”

The issue of poor doors has popped up in other cities.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he’ll change that city’s policy after a 33-storey development made news last year for its poor doors. Owners enter on the riverfront, residents in low-rent units enter from the alley. Still, 88,000 people applied for one of the 55 subsidized rental units.

As in New York, real estate in Vancouver is at a premium and cities are increasingly asking the private sector to build affordable housing.

“I think as long as we’re asking developers to build affordable housing, which previously was the domain of the senior levels of government, we have to be realistic,” said architect Michael Geller. “They need to sell their market units to support the affordable housing and the reality is a lot of people–especially when you’re getting the very wealthy and the very poor–don’t want to live together. It’s a reality.”

Vancouver already has so-called poor doors, most prominently at the Woodward’s development. Supporters of the policy liken it to how airlines operate.

“If one looks at this some as a form of segregation, to my mind it’s almost like saying, should we end the policy of allowing business class on airplanes?” said Geller.

-with files from Ted Chernecki

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