As rents continue to rise in the Lower Mainland, teachers from one city in the region are asking for “workforce housing” so they can afford to live closer to work.
West Vancouver Teachers Association president Renee Willock recently polled her members about their interest in the district’s proposal to build a 170-unit rental apartment, at 2195 Gordon Ave., to be used as workforce housing.
“Very few of our teachers live in West Vancouver, they’re all commuting,” said Willock. “Eighty per cent of our members would be interested.”
At least half the units would be offered at 30 per cent below market rates, on a former Vancouver Coastal Health property bought by the district in 2014. The proposal is set to go to public consultation this fall.
Willock said forcing their teachers to “commute very, very long distances” is bad for not only the teachers, but for student who rely on them, as teachers rush home to beat traffic instead of staying after class, coaching sports or participating in other school or community events.
Mayor Michael Smith, who is not running for re-election, doesn’t foresee a backlash from residents on designating the building for workers because they understand the challenge.
“If a business hires someone, or a school hires a new teacher, as soon as they get offered a job closer to home they leave West Vancouver,” said Smith.
Willock pointed to Ecole Pauline Johnson Elementary, which lost 13 teachers last year as more jobs opened closer to the teachers’ homes. “That’s almost all the teachers at the school.”
Smith said the sheer number of workers commuting is just adding to gridlock on North Shore crossings already struggling to keep up traffic.
“We really have a crisis when it comes to new rental accommodation… we haven’t built a new rental building in 50 years,” he said. “We need accommodation that targets younger people.”
The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in West Van is $2,434 – one of the highest in the region. In comparison, two-bedroom rent in Vancouver’s downtown is nearly $200 less per month.