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Women-led social housing slated for East Hastings but questions surface over who owns the site

The federal government is kicking in $150,000 to begin planning for a women-led housing project in Hastings Sunrise, but nearby business owners say they’ve been caught off guard — and that the land is theirs.

The funding announcement was made last Friday following the Women Deliver 2019 conference held in Vancouver — the world’s largest symposium on gender equality.

The idea is to build a women-led housing project with an integrated services hub and dedicated childcare centre on a surface parking lot at East Hastings and Franklin Street.

The surface parking lot is owned by the City of Vancouver and is valued at $17 million, but nearby business owners tell CBC News that they were promised title to the parking lot in the 1960s, and have been paying a special levy, property taxes and maintenance on the lot ever since.

“The City of Vancouver is on record as the title holder. However, there is some question among our property owners as to how that lot came about,” said Patricia Barnes, executive director of the Hastings North Business Improvement Association, to CBC News.

The surface parking lot is popular with shoppers visiting retailers on East Hastings, and offers free two hour parking.

The number of units and height has not yet been determined. The housing development is expected to include a community childcare centre and services hub that could include services such as a healing and wellness space, green space, legal advocacy services, arts and culture space, gathering space, and entrepreneurial opportunities and educational courses.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart called the project “historic” and said it could provide dozens of women and children with safe, warm, and accessible housing.

“That it would be developed and run by women — from design professionals, including planners, architects and engineers to construction workers, suppliers and operators — makes this something we’re even more proud to be behind.”

Several neighbourhood retailers told CBC News that they plan to review whatever paperwork they can find to help determine the true ownership of the surface parking lot.

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