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FOI shows that secret Memorandum of Understanding was not as advertised

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During the Public Hearing for the rezoning of W7th/W8th and Arbutus site in July 2022, there was a constant reference by BC Housing, City Staff, Mayor and Council to a  July 2020 Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Vancouver, BC Housing, and CMHC. This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was clearly a driving factor in the decision to rezone the site, yet had never been disclosed to the public.

An urgent Freedom of Information request by the community in July 2022, finally secured the release of the MOU, but not until October 11, 2022. You can now see the MOU here:

Memorandum of Understanding

It is now obvious from reading the MOU, why BC Housing and the City did not release it prior to or during the public hearing. 

Our key takeaways from this document and the discussion in the Public Hearing are:

  • Contrary to David Eby's April 2022 announcement that the project composition had been revised to 50% shelter rate and 50% very low income, the MOU provides that 100% of units are to be rented at the shelter rate, i.e., to individuals who are experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. Numerous staff, Mayor and Council cited this 50/50 mix as a compromise to address community feedback in some way. The fact the MOU states this must be 100% shelter rate, confirms the suspicions of the community, that the language in the referral report that "a minimum of 50%" of units be rented at the shelter rate, was not in good faith and it was intended to permit 100% of units to be rented at the shelter rate.

  • Staff stated on several occasions that the budget and MOU only allowed for Single Units, in spite of the call from the community and experts that families be housed in this location. The MOU shows that it does NOT require that the project have only single-occupancy studio units. The language of the MOU contemplates a mix of unit sizes.  Similarly, the funding for the project under the "Building BC: Supportive Housing Fund" is NOT restricted to single adults:  the program extends to youth and families, contrary to representations made by City staff at the hearing, and accepted by some Councillors as fact, and a factor in their vote.

  • NO clinical supports will be provided, such as medical or addiction recovery services, and the MOU states that wrap-around supportive services will be delivered off-site, in the "neighbourhood". No such clinical services currently exist in Kitsilano. BC Housing, City Staff and the Operator stated that considerable “supports” would be in place, with no detail. The Mayor curtailed any detailed questioning on this topic. The MOU cites that Clinical Care on-site is not a requirement.

  • The MOU does NOT contain any language that supports the statements by BC Housing representatives, Mayor Stewart, and City staff that funding for 8th/Arbutus would magically disappear if the rezoning was not approved, or if the project was sent back to City staff for revision.  The MOU discusses the agreement for funding, between City, BC Housing and CMHC, and is not specific to any particular site.  It was also confirmed by the Federal MPs in the area, that Federal funding was not at risk if this site was not chosen or approved.

One of the key allegations in the Petition filed by the Kitsilano Coalition was that the MOU was improperly withheld, preventing the public from making submissions on its provisions, and thus resulting in an unfair hearing. We expect the Petition to be heard early in the New Year.

Financial Help Needed

Kitsilano Coalition is run entirely by volunteers and needs your support financially to pursue these legal activities. We are entirely funded by contributions from the community, and we require additional funds to continue, as the legal activities unfold. Please contribute by visiting our contributions page. All contributions are appreciated and will be focussed on these activities.