Construction begins on more social housing at Vancouver’s controversial Little Mountain site

The City of Vancouver officially broke ground on a new affordable housing project in the Little Mountain neighbourhood — more than a decade and a half after hundreds of residents in social housing on the site were displaced.

Holborn Properties Ltd. is now constructing a 48-unit affordable rental building as part of a community amenity contribution the company agreed to when city council approved private development rights.

“The Little Mountain project is a testament to our shared vision of inclusive urban development that prioritizes social responsibility alongside economic growth,” said Holborn CEO Joo Kim Tiah.

But it comes about 16 years after 700 residents were displaced from the area when the developer purchased the Little Mountain land between Main and Ontario streets and 33rd and 37th avenues for $334 million in 2008.

Since then, only one social housing project — a 53-unit building finished in 2015 — has been completed on the site.

There has long been frustration from city officials over Holborn’s failure to develop the land while its property value soared.

In a news conference on Thursday, Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim took the credit — on behalf of his ABC Party — for finally getting the new development off the ground.

“At the end of the day, this thing was talked about, talked about, talked about, and there were no shovels in the ground until we came into office,” he said. “It’s getting built. We’re starting it.”

Social housing, child care, plaza

The new six-storey rental building will be built at 167 E. 36th Ave.

The city says it will include social housing, a neighbourhood house and a community plaza.

There will also be a child-care facility on the ground floor with 69 spaces.

The building will have multiple housing options ranging from studios to three-bedroom units, including accessible units.

The city says it will rent at least 30 per cent of the units at or below Vancouver housing income limits.

S.U.C.C.E.S.S., a not-for-profit social service agency, will operate the building.

The city expects construction to be completed by spring 2026.

Most of the six-hectare Little Mountain site in Vancouver, near Queen Elizabeth Park, has been empty since the controversial demolition of the existing buildings in 2009.
Most of the six-hectare Little Mountain site in Vancouver, near Queen Elizabeth Park, has been empty since the controversial demolition of the existing buildings after the site’s sale in 2008. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

History of controversy

The six-hectare Little Mountain site was home to 224 units of social housing that existed from the 1950s until the land was sold in 2008.

It remained untouched for years.

Holborn initially said it intended to build over 1,500 housing units on the property, including 282 units of social housing.

In 2021, CBC News obtained the purchase and sale agreement between the province and Holborn through a freedom of information request.

It revealed that in 2008, the B.C. Liberal government at the time gave Holborn $211 million in interest-free loans on an 18-year term. Interest isn’t set to accrue until Dec. 31, 2026.

The sale price for the land in 2008 was $334 million, but the province said only $35 million had been paid.

At the groundbreaking, Tiah apologized for how long it’s taken to build housing on the site. He said his company is now focused on moving ahead as quickly as possible.

“Wait around for a couple more months and you’ll see the result,” he said.

WATCH | More than a decade of broken promises at Little Mountain: 

12 years of broken promises for Vancouver social housing

6 months ago

Duration 2:19

Justin McElroy looks at more than a decade of governments and developers promising that the Little Mountain social housing complex will be rebuilt — and then very little happening.


Posted in CBC