By ML Burke
The Delta Seniors Planning Team (including yours truly) gave a presentation to city council in 2014 pitching a senior-friendly community be built at Paterson Park, a roughly 24-acre piece of mostly unused land at the corner of Ladner Trunk Road and Highway 17A.
Since then many people have asked me “What’s going on with Paterson Park?” A couple of years back I asked that same question to the municipality. They said Paterson Park was not for this council to decide but for a future council 10 or 15 years down the road.
(Editor’s note: The City of Delta only owns the western part of the park. Kwantlen Polytechnic University owns the 10-acre eastern portion.)
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, chaos has taken over our housing market. Blaming it on foreign ownership, scarcity of land and homegrown speculators doesn’t help. Possible solutions have been too little or too late. We’ve been losing our rental stock since the 1980s when the rules changed rendering it unprofitable for developers to construct rental-only buildings. The cost of land is so high now that these aging rentals are being demolished and replaced by high-end apartments for the wealthy.
This leaves the middle and working class folks out of the picture. Add to that adults on fixed incomes, plus young people starting out, and we’re looking at more than 50 per cent of the population who are being forced to leave Metro Vancouver. Losing our workforce is already having serious effects on the economy, with restaurants closing, a shortage of health-care workers and “Hiring Now” signs seen everywhere. Vancouver lost the Amazon bid because our cost of living is too high.
And there sits Paterson Park, which is probably the largest, ideally located piece of available land left in the Fraser basin. It’s not right that people who have grown up here have to leave because of our skyrocketing cost-of-living.
I see Paterson Park as a major opportunity, not to mention a legacy, for this incoming council to do something needed and innovative on this site. If the city leases it for 99 years to both profit and non-profit housing it could have a healthy mix of ages and incomes. There’s enough space to create a small village with a smattering of small shops. It would be walkable, affordable and appropriate for all income levels. No need for towers, but three to six stories would create a sizable stock of new housing.
On the Kwantlen University side of the property, students going into the health fields could be trained at a campus of care centre, including a dementia village. This would fulfill their mandate for education.
We don’t have 10 or 15 years to wait for a decision on Paterson Park. If ever there was a time, it is now. Housing is a major election issue in Delta and Paterson Park should be part of that discussion.
If you would like to comment on this vision, search Facebook for Paterson Park Village.
ML Burke retired from the health sector to work on issues such as affordable housing. She sits on the Delta Seniors Planning Team and the BC Seniors Advocate’s Council of Advisors.