Efforts to build affordable housing in Gibsons have been stymied by unforeseen costs and challenging market conditions, developer Blane Hagedorn reported to the July 17 Gibsons committee of the whole.
“Our cost was increased to build this subdivision by
35 per cent over a conventional subdivision by using Smart Growth methods,” he said.
The Town adopted an official community plan based on Smart Growth principles in April of 2005, the aim being sustainable growth management.
An affordable housing policy was later adopted in 2007 “in order to alleviate the shortfall in affordable housing and community amenities as a result of increased residential development within the Town.”
“It doesn’t work in Parkland, mainly because of the soil conditions,” Hagedorn said. Currently, he is hoping that a market price duplex will land somewhere close to a $279,000 price tag.
“It’s not going to be easy to arrive at that price. The Town’s bylaws discriminate against duplexes,” he added.
Affordable versions of the units were targeted for a $239,000 price tag.
The developer reported several unforeseen costs, such as the disposal of biomass material, prohibited from being burnt within the Town.
According to Hagedorn, running waste through a wood chipper cost an added $75,000 and consumed, he estimated, 12,000 litres of fuel.
“Quite frankly, [burning] it would have probably been a more environmentally sound way of doing it,” he argued.
Furthermore, the cost of connecting to the Town’s geothermal infrastructure had more than doubled to $5,600 per unit.
In an effort to make Parkland more marketable, Hagedorn said he opted to begin work on $400,000 worth of amenities, including a tennis court that engineers are hoping to place over a geo-exchange field.
The previous plan had been to raise the capital required for amenities through initial sales, but limited to six transactions, “we’ve had to dip into the sock.
“It was decided here at the hall that we were going to use smart growth principles come hell or high water. I even supplied a geotech report that said the ground was not permeable but it was not used and we carried on with the situation,” he said. “The current market conditions do not allow us to recover these extra costs.”
Despite the challenges, Hagedorn said he was optimistic that a meeting next week with BC Housing would result in further progress on the affordable housing front.
He stressed to the committee his belief that the Town’s geo-exchange infrastructure remained a worthwhile selling point and requested collaboration on developing it as a marketing tool.
“I would encourage the Town to consider setting a mutually agreed initial price,” he added. “What I’d like to ask for is some flexibility in considering the appraisal.”
Mayor Wayne Rowe said he sympathized with Hagedorn’s frustration, describing him as a “good corporate citizen.” The Mayor added, “We’ll see what we can do to move this forward.”
Coun. Gerry Tretick described the challenges experienced by Parkland as a learning process, a pilot project on the path to affordable housing.
“I’m hoping we can work together to solve this,” he said.