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After several months of anxiety about the future of their homes, the residents of Vancouver’s False Creek South, built in the 1970s and 80s as an experiment in a new kind of central-city living, are hopeful that a coming redevelopment will preserve the neighbourhood’s original features and ideals.

That redevelopment is expected to bring thousands of additional residents to the mostly low-rise enclave. Last month, a report from the city’s real estate department, which contained the latest set of proposals for the neighbourhood, led to worries among residents that much of False Creek South’s existing social and co-op housing would be torn down within a decade, without a plan to replace it.

But some of those who live in False Creek South say they were encouraged by an October city council motion that directs city staff to ensure that any new construction preserves something the neighbourhood has long prided itself upon: its unique mix of low-, middle- and high-income households.

“We feel confident going forward,” said Graham McGarva, a representative of False Creek South residents. “This time the city has said, ‘Let’s really explore non-market housing models.’ ”

False Creek South is located between the Cambie and Burrard Street bridges, on the south shore of False Creek. It spent the early part of the 20th century as an industrial site, before the city acquired the land and set about transforming it into what, at the time, was a novel model for an urban neighbourhood: an intentionally designed mixed-income community.

Most of the land in the False Creek South area is still owned by the city and leased, long-term, to occupants. In 2017, with those leases set to expire in waves over the next the three decades, the city began consulting residents on what to do next.

Almost 200 people attended an October city council meeting to express views about the recent proposals from the city’s real estate department. Some said it was encouraging that the city was envisioning room for a lot of new residents – about 6,500 households, compared with the current 1,800 – but many said it felt as if officials were abandoning the original ideals of the neighbourhood in favour of maximizing profits from redevelopment.

In the end, councillors voted unanimously to accept the real estate department’s report for information, meaning the city isn’t bound by any of the proposals in the next stage of the planning process. Councillors directed city staff to start a process of coming up with a new vision for the area, in consultation with residents and the city’s planning department – something that had always been envisioned as the next step.

OneCity councillor Christine Boyle put forward an amendment that directed staff to ensure that the plan works to preserve False Creek South’s original mix of household incomes, that it optimizes the existing social and co-op housing buildings for as long as possible and that it keeps a focus on architectural design and green spaces as a way of fostering a sense of community.

Independent councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung added an amendment that called upon council to express support for the goal of working with the non-profit sector to achieve the greatest level of affordable housing possible for the area. Both amendments carried unanimously.

Non-profit housing groups had previously objected to the city real estate department’s plan, saying it focused too much on bringing in market-priced housing that would need to be built by private developers.

Jill Atkey of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association and Thom Armstrong of the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC had said that non-profits should be given a chance to work toward providing housing in False Creek South that could be rented for below-market rates. Mr. Armstrong had also lobbied for a community land trust for the area.

With the neighbourhood plan now entering a new phase of consultations, the non-profit groups will be able to bring their ideas to the process.

Mr. McGarva, a planner and architect, said the real estate department’s plan, for all its faults, did provide some useful information. It showed clearly, for the first time, that the city is willing to develop on certain pieces of vacant land between the current housing in the area, he said.

The False Creek South Neighbourhood Association, a residents’ group, has advanced its own plan for the area, called Re:Plan. It envisions adding about one million square feet of new housing on those vacant sites, in addition to the approximately two million square feet that already exist elsewhere in the neighbourhood. But the real estate department’s plan called for tripling the amount of housing in the area to more than six million square feet.

Mr. McGarva said residents will now get a chance to offer opinions on how the central part of the neighbourhood could be redeveloped, eventually, to add more housing.

The city’s numbers, he said, are high. “But they’re what we can work with. We have the appetite to look at stuff.”

Trish French, a former Vancouver senior city planner, said she is hopeful the move into a proper community consultation will result in a solution for the area.

Ms. French said there is no doubt the community needs a refresh. In particular, she said, it needs better ways for residents to travel over the rail lines that separate it from Fairview Slopes, to the south.

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