City to address False Creek South leases

Residents say uncertainty over the neighbourhood’s future could erode land values and the area’s quality of life

Vancouver Coun. George Affleck: this is the city’s first attempt to address lease expiry in False Creek South

A Vancouver City council move to clarify the future of Southwest False Creek leaseholds is receiving strong neighbourhood support.

“We’re very pleased and appreciative,” said Richard Evans, False Creek South Neighbourhood Association planning committee chairman, regarding council’s unanimous February 28 vote to start working out the future of the neighbourhood.

The city signed 60-year land leases with area residents starting in 1976. The first of those is set to expire in 2036.

According to Evans, two-thirds of the area’s 4,500 residents live on leased lands. Of those, he said, 40% are in market strata housing and 60% are in non-market housing, including five co-operatives and a care home.

The council motion from Coun. George Affleck contends that neighbourhood uncertainty is affecting:

•property values;

•the ability of leaseholders to sell their remaining property interests;

•strata decisions pertaining to future recapitalization; and

•maintenance decisions regarding the leasehold properties.

Affleck told Business in Vancouver that the neighbourhood residents want “some sort of comfort” about what their future holds.

He said his motion represents the first time anyone at the city has looked to clarify the neighbourhood’s future.

The motion stipulates a process that will include consultation with the community and a range of experts.

“That process is going to be long, but right now the first [leases] come due in less than 25 years, which means there’s a huge problem with getting mortgages and things like that,” Affleck said. “If we don’t deal with it at the city, my fear is that the neighbourhood will decline significantly because people will stop wanting to live there.”

Evans, a False Creek Co-Op resident, said that co-operatives are seeking certainty about their future before they invest capital in maintenance projects. He said his co-op is keen to know its future – even if that future doesn’t include a lease extension in the neighbourhood.

“Better to know that now, because we would stop putting money into our building,” he said. “[Then] if we wanted to locate to another area of town … we would start negotiations with the city for land probably and then we would start working to raise the capital to make that possible. And 30 years isn’t much time.”

Evans said False Creek South’s push for clarity on its future is coming from market and non-market leaseholders – as well as from owners of freehold properties.

“They’re part of this process because they feel the same way – they don’t want the housing stock around them deteriorating because it will reflect on their value as well,” he said. “They’re interested in the neighbourhood viability as well.” •