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Opinion: Housing redevelopments must also consider business needs

For the dozens of businesses in the area, the Moody Centre Transit-Oriented Development creates some uncertainty
A rendering of the Moody Centre Transit-Oriented Development area

The housing crisis is front and centre — understandably so — and the City of Port Moody is committed to doing its part to tackle the issue head on in our community. However, while we work to encourage the development of diverse housing options, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the needs of businesses, especially as many grapple with similar challenges of affordability and supply.

Businesses are still coping in the wake of the pandemic, managing inflation and struggling with labour and skills shortages on top of the day-to-day challenges inherent with running a business. As a longtime small-business owner, I have spent countless hours navigating many of the same issues. I know that there are no easy answers.

In the Moody Centre Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) area, I also recognize the challenges created by the uncertainty of tenancy for businesses in the area. The TOD area is a key neighbourhood slated for redevelopment and we have already begun receiving development applications. The process will be instrumental in bringing much-needed new housing for people across a wide demographic spectrum. It’s also expected to bring significant new commercial development.

The TOD area is currently comprised of primarily legacy industrial buildings as well as some retail and, despite the uncertainty, it is still an active business district. There are over 100 active business licences in a variety of sectors. They are operating under leases with demolition clauses and they can see that changes are on the horizon. Many businesses have local markets they have worked tirelessly to establish and, for better or for worse, Port Moody has limited vacancy rates across all commercial types. In fact, the Tri-Cities has some of the highest lease rates in Metro Vancouver’s suburban areas, which is partly indicative of limited supply.

To give businesses and entrepreneurs more options, council is working with developer partners to add appropriate commercial supply. And to reduce uncertainty and minimize any negative impacts of redevelopment, we passed a resolution in late 2023 to require conversations to occur between businesses, developers and landowners, with staff support. We have added this requirement to our Sustainability Report Card, which is used to assign scores based on specific performance measurements for development applications. While I know that these measures alone will not solve all the challenges related to space and affordability, and that we are still likely to lose some businesses as developments start to break ground, we are committed to doing what we can to support and keep our businesses.

Strength in our business community is a consistent theme. Across the city, we have seen strong business investment and interest. From the significant investment from Fraser Health with the Urgent and Primary Care Centre, to an 11-per-cent increase in active business licence counts between 2016 and 2021, we have welcomed new businesses across all our commercial districts and continue to see steady numbers in our home-based businesses. We are thankful to Port Moody’s businesses and the entrepreneurs behind them for bringing new goods and services to our city, for strengthening clusters and creating new job opportunities for residents.

Businesses are critical to the well-being of our residents and community. They provide goods, services and jobs close to home, which are important in supporting Port Moody council’s economic development, climate action and active transportation goals. Port Moody is also fortunate to have many local businesses, which bring a unique richness to the social fabric of the city. They also strengthen the Port Moody economy as these businesses circulate more dollars locally, often investing in their community through new business partnerships, and providing financial and in-kind support to charitable causes.

We are in a housing crisis and it is critical that we continue to put our full energy into this issue. It is also critical that we work with affected businesses and take a broad, holistic approach to better our community for everyone.

Meghan Lahti is mayor of Port Moody.