Let’s talk about priorities.  

(or, Why you ought to be mad about what’s going on at 3030-3038 Commercial Drive)


Vancouver has a housing crisis. According to the CMHC, the rental vacancy rates for both the City of Vancouver and the Metropolitan area sit at a painfully low 0.9%. This implies that there are about 500 available purpose built rental units and perhaps another 270 condos for rent on the secondary market in the City of Vancouver at a given time (for a city of of 630,000 people).  This tight rental market creates conditions where folks scrambling for a place to live offer more and more, landlords can ask for higher and higher rents while still finding tenants, and where existing renters find themselves under ever greater threat of eviction.

Meanwhile, particularly in East Vancouver, school enrolment has been declining, and only two years ago more than a dozen schools were threatened with closure, robbing neighbourhoods of walkable schools.    

So what happens when a plan to increase the stock of rental homes runs into a plan to increase the capacity of an area private school? The rental apartment will contribute to raising the vacancy rate, help reduce pressure on rents, and allow more people to live in accessible areas near transit.  The private school will contribute to the decline in enrolment of already under-utilized public schools.  What would you prioritize?

Word has it that the City is struggling with this question.

3030-3038 Commercial Drive is a proposal to rezone a property on Commercial to build a six-story, 43 unit secured rental apartment, in compliance with the city’s market rental policies and supported by the Urban Design Panel 6 to 1.  Twice now a scheduled public hearing for 3030-3038 Commercial Drive has been suddenly and indefinitely postponed away only days in advance, while Stratford Hall, a neighbouring private school (where tuition starts at $18,550) have been marshalling their resources against the apartments, and are allegedly leaning on the city to quietly shut the application down. As shown in the document pictured at the top, they have their eyes on the site for future expansion.  Stopping the rental project means that the site is available for them to purchase on the cheap, while more than 40 homes go unbuilt.

What is known for certain is that Stratford Hall have sent the city a 10-page letter in opposition to the proposal.  This includes such gems as the suggestion on page 7 that the renters pose a “serious” threat to students’ safety on Stratford Hall’s rooftop playground.

In this situation, the city has the power to create a special privileged land use supporting a private school charging more than half the area’s median individual income in a neighbourhood with public schools under recent threat of closure or they have the power to support their professed goals of increasing access to secure rental housing.  

What’s your priority?