A proposal to tear down a pair of aging Whalley apartment buildings and replace them with several towers has some of the building’s residents concerned about where they’ll end up.
There are currently 154 apartments between the two buildings at 10138 Whalley Boulevard.
If approved by council, developer Rize Alliance Properties intends to replace them with three high-rise towers (23-storey, 32-storey and 39-storey), two 13-storey rental buildings with 172 apartments and another six-storey apartment.
All told, the 154 apartments there now would be replaced by 1,126.
Ground-level retail space and a daycare facility is also proposed.
Rize envisions an “open city block, with free-flowing public space at its heart, lined by a mix of uses which aim to serve its residents and the wider City of Surrey.”
In June, more than a half dozen senior residents of the building met with the Now-Leader, expressing their frustration and worry about the proposal.
“The stress it’s creating. The mental stress. Not knowing where you’re going to live,” said 61-year-old Mary Heistad at the time, tearing up. “How you’re going to pay for it. Are you going to have enough money to eat? Are you going to live long enough to see it?”
Another resident, 75-year-old Beverly Palmer, sent a letter to city hall outlining her concerns earlier this year. Palmer wrote that she understands it is important for Surrey to develop, but asks “at what cost?”
“There has been many low income/seniors/handicapped residents that have been left in the cold with no reasonable options,” Palmer added.
In planning documents, staff note concerns over displacement have been expressed to the city.
Rize previously told the Now-Leader that it is committed to working with residents to help them relocate. In its application to council, Rize indicates that 21 of the units are vacant as of Oct. 7.
Surrey council is set to consider the proposal for the first time on Monday, Dec. 2.
To proceed, Rize would need council’s blessing to rezone the property, and it would be subject to a public hearing. The plan requires density increases to the city’s Official Community Plan and City Centre Plan, and a Housing Agreement would be put in place for the rental buildings.
Staff say in planning documents that the proposal “partially complies” with the city’s Rental Replacement and Tenant Relocation Assistance policy.
“Existing rental housing units are proposed to be replaced at a higher than 1:1 replacement ratio, however, the 172 proposed rental replacement units are proposed to be provided at market rental rates rather than at affordable rental rates for low to moderate income households (defined as 10 per cent below current Canadian Market and Housing Corporations average rents) in accordance with the policy,” the document indicates.
Despite that, staff support the proposal proceeding to public hearing. The justification for the recommendation is that the mixed-use aspect of the proposal will “complement” the city’s downtown core; that Rize has proposed a variety of in-kind amenities and cash-in-lieu to address the proposed density bump; that the site is within 500 metres of SkyTrain; among other rationale.
But staff do request that Rize “determine what density they would require in order to provide all or a percentage of the proposed market rental units at 10 per cent below CMHC rental rates.”
They note that the policy recommendation to provide new replacement units at that rate “represents an undue burden on this new development in the absence of significant government subsidy or density increase over what is currently proposed.”
In June, Rize told the Now-Leader that tenants were being offered three months rent, either as a lump sum payment, free rent, or a combination of both. A letter to residents stated that “longer term tenancies will be provided with additional compensation on a scale relating to the length of tenancy.”
Tenants are also being offered money to cover moving expense.
“We will support them through this transition process and are committed to treating each tenant equitably, fairly and compassionately,” indicated a statement from Rize to the Now-Leader earlier this year, adding that there is a “resident support specialist” working one-on-one with tenants.
Rize said at the time that tenants could remain on the site through 2020 and possibly into 2021.
Chris Vollan, president of projects for Rize Alliance, said a number of tenants have expressed interest in renting those future units.
“So the rental replacement buildings will be run by a non-profit. That’s one of the requirements of the city program for rental replacement,” he said.
“They will be rented at rates set by BC Housing. We’re still in very early conversations with BC Housing.”
A phased occupancy is proposed for the project, with the first hoped to open in May 2023, the second in June 2024 and the final in August of that year. The school district projects 38 students from the development, 27 at Lena Shaw Elementary and 11 at Guildford Park Secondary.