City of Vancouver demolishing housing properties to make way for park space

Click to play video: 'City of Vancouver buying, demolishing homes for park land'
City of Vancouver buying, demolishing homes for park land
WATCH: The City of Vancouver is facing some heat once again after making a decision that seems to contradict the problems we’re having with affordable housing. Last fall, we told you about the City buying some single family homes to make way for parkland. Now, another home is facing demolition for the very same reason. Kristen Robinson reports – Jul 2, 2017

Sitting next to one of East Vancouver’s most popular parks, the 1919 character home is starting to show its age. The junk mail collecting at its doorstep only helping to define it as one of thousands of vacant homes in the city.

“Everyone is kind of sad cause the house had a history and we thought it could get handed down to another generation,”said neighbour Rich York.

Instead, the home at 3030 Victoria Drive is coming down.

Most recently assessed at $1,697,200, it has sat vacant for more than a year after being purchased by the city. The house backs onto John Hendry (Trout Lake) Park and the long-term plan is for it to be demolished to expand the 27-hectare park space.

READ MORE: Vancouver’s empty homes tax deadline gives homeowners 1 more day to find tenants

Neighbours like York wonder why the restored home could not house tenants in the interim.

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“You know, there’s a housing crisis around for rent and you know maybe they could have rented it short term until they decide what they’re going to do down the road,” he said.

NPA Vancouver City Councillor Melissa De Genova says the property was purchased specifically to use the land to build on existing park space.

“I see frustration from people regarding affordable housing and taking some of these homes away or off the market but that being said it has to be balanced with green space,” De Genova said.

It’s not the first time the city has snapped up a home with plans to turn the lot into park land.

Last October, the city bought a house near Memorial South Park, on a stretch of East 45th Avenue where six empty residential lots were already slated to become permanent green space. The $1,150,000 purchase of 1011 East 45th Avenue came one month before the city voted to implement a one per cent tax on empty homes, in a bid to alleviate the crunched rental housing market.

“We know we have probably 20,000-plus empty or underutilized homes that hopefully we see thousands of those shift to rental,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said after the tax was passed in November 2016.

Global News asked the city of Vancouver how soon 3030 Victoria Drive would become park land and why it would leave a home empty for so long in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. City spokesperson Gail Pickard said via email, “We won’t be able to get responses to all these questions until Tuesday and some are for Parks to answer.”

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De Genova says she hasn’t been inside the Victoria Drive character home but the determination on whether a city-owned home could be leased to tenants before demolition would be made on a case-by-case basis.

“It’s difficult to make those decisions unless you’ve had an inspection on the home and you know that it’s safe to rent out to people,” De Genova said.

3030 Victoria Drive is one of eight homes on the block and the Trout Lake park expansion is not expected to happen until the other seven homeowners sell their properties. So far according to York, no other neighbours are sold on the city’s offers. That means the home could be sitting empty, or depending on how soon it gets torn down, as a vacant lot — for some time.

“It’d be a shame to see an empty lot sitting there for a while,” said York.

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