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Application seeks to bring affordable co-living housing to Pemberton

Council supportive, but raises concerns with request for reduced parking
Affordable housing - Pemberton
LiveShare is working on bringing one of B.C.’s first secured rental co-living projects to Pemberton.

A development permit application at Pemberton’s municipal hall seeks to add a new co-living housing project to the village’s affordable housing stock.

The project, if approved, will be located at 7340 Crabapple Court, and will consist of 64 approximately 300-square-foot micro-suite units with kitchenettes, sleeping quarters and bathroom facilities. The building will also include a communal kitchen, dining area, lounge and laundry facilities.

“We create collaborative living spaces that enable more meaningful, interwoven and connected lives. We apply person-centric design to bring home and community closer together,” said Jake McEwan, founder and CEO of applicant LiveShare, in a presentation at the Aug. 31 Committee of the Whole meeting.

“It’s a new take on an old idea imagined by the millennial generation that values things like openness, collaboration, social networking and the sharing economy. The apartments are not so much designed to be lived in as to be lived out of, and emphasize common amenities over private space.”

The main issue facing the developers right now revolves around the need for a parking bylaw variance to go ahead with the project.

Currently, under the Village of Pemberton’s zoning bylaw, the project is required to provide one parking stall per unit. In addition to that, a covenant on the subject lands leftover from a previous project requires it to provide a further 14 stalls to the neighbouring Gateway building.

According to consulting planner Cameron Chalmers, when the first phase of the proposed two-phase Gateway development was deficient in parking, a covenant was issued requiring the second-phase build to supply additional parking stalls for the use of the Gateway building.

“It’s one of those scenarios where to make up a deficiency in Phase 1 of our project, the second phase was given the burden,” said Chalmers. “Now that we’re considering a different application, the applicants, in this instance, have chosen to accommodate the covenant obligation and are proposing 14 surface parking stalls, which would be available to the commercial operations in the Gateway.”

With its application, LiveShare is proposing to honour the covenant-required 14 stalls, while providing a further 25 parking spaces for its own project.

With these potential affordable housing units, currently projected to cost about $900 per month, McEwan is targeting a younger demographic which he says “typically does not own cars.”

On top of relying on finding tenants without cars, he is proposing multiple other solutions to the potential parking issues, which include a 30-passenger LiveShare van that will provide daily shuttle services to Whistler and weekend services to Vancouver and Squamish, a bike-share program with 10 bicycles to be used by residents, and a community car-share program with two AWD cars that can be booked for use through a mobile app or on LiveShare’s website.

While all the council members were interested in the idea of this affordable, co-living project, the parking variance from 64 to just 25 stalls was a major concern for all involved.

“I like the concept. I think there’s an opportunity it could work. I feel the location is a tough one as far as parking is concerned,” said Councillor Ted Craddock. “My concern would be how many people would be parking in the Glen on the streets overnight, during the day, and if we have parking over at the community centre. I just think I really have a little issue with that. I think all the ideas they brought forward are excellent. I just don’t know how you say to 64 people that only 25 people can have a vehicle and I’m stymied by that.”

However, Mayor Mike Richman, while in agreeance with the concerns of Craddock, said he believes that if you want to make a transition to being a more walkable community, you need housing options that support that lifestyle.

“We are still car-dependent and everybody recognizes we live in Pemberton and it’s hard to get around, but I think unless we build some amenities and assets that don’t include cars, we will just keep encouraging people to not look for other ways to get around,” Richman said. “So just in the same way that we want to build a walkable community that encourages people to ride into town, to walk around town, we have to build things with that in mind.”

A second concern raised by Coun. Amica Antonelli was about whether the solutions to the parking issues put forward by McEwan were feasible based on the fact similar programs have failed in Whistler.

“Whistler has a lot of examples of housing that has promised shuttles or a car-share, and it didn’t come forward because it wasn’t economically feasible, and then of course the municipality can’t really try to enforce something that isn’t working economically,” she said. “So I would be really cautious about promising those amenities instead of parking because we have lots of examples where it hasn’t worked.”

Ultimately, as long as it is aware and cognizant of the concerns raised at Committee of the Whole, LiveShare has been given permission to move forward with the application process.

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