Broadway Plan Touches Down: Redevelopment at 25–55 East 12th Ave

Aerial visualization of the Broadway Plan prepared by CityHallWatch


Tenants in two Mount Pleasant buildings have found themselves among the first wave of renters impacted by the upcoming Broadway corridor redevelopment. The two neighbouring apartment buildings at 25 and 55 East 12th Avenue have been merged in a land assembly for redevelopment by a company called JTA Development. 25 and 55 East are three- and four-storey apartment buildings, respectively, together housing more than 80 units.

A consulting firm, acting on behalf of the owners, contacted tenants in late February 2024 to inform them that a redevelopment process is set to be underway. The letter – addressed to tenants in both buildings – outlines a rough timeline for relocation and indicates that a redevelopment application was submitted to the City of Vancouver on November 30, 2023. The proposal appears to include two 20-storey towers on the site. At the time of writing, the application has not been posted on Shape Your City, the city’s public-facing website for current and past development applications.

Tenants have inevitably felt the stress and uncertainty of the proposed demolition and redevelopment of their homes.

“Home” (2017). Photo by Nathan Crompton

I am one of those tenants. I have lived in my apartment at 25 E 12th for 13 years, since December 2011. I have been heartened by the collective response in our buildings, as people come together in a community of care and solidarity, whether reconnecting with old friends down the hall, meeting new neighbors for the first time, or attending an all-tenant meeting at the local community centre.

Broadway-Subway Conjuncture 

Sometime in the years following the Vancouver Winter Olympics, talks became more serious about the long-time prospect of extending the Lower Mainland’s SkyTrain system westward, past its east-west terminus at VCC–Clark station.

In 2017, the federal government announced that they would fund 40% of the costs of a SkyTrain extension project. The following year, in March 2018, one of the early acts of the new provincial NDP government was a decision to approve a final plan for the Broadway Subway. The plan proposed a multi-billion-dollar extension of the Millennium Line west to Arbutus Street. After delays, the new line with its six main underground stations are now scheduled to open in 2026. 

From the moment the Broadway line was approved, tenants living along the Broadway corridor raised the alarm about development-induced displacement. For their part the Vancouver Tenants Union (VTU) kicked into gear, organizing in new and difficult conditions at the height of the pandemic lockdown, 2020–2022. 

Throughout the Fall of 2021, the VTU knocked on doors in 293 households across 41 purpose-built rental buildings in the Broadway corridor. Their inquiry uncovered “a stark picture of vulnerable tenants whose homes will be targeted over the next several years.” The VTU published their report in May 2022, entitled Renters Plan: An Alternative to Transit-Oriented Displacement Along Broadway. The report identified high-risk prospects for tenants, but also outlined an alternative plan for tenant protection and land use on the Broadway corridor.

The key finding of the report was based on a simple calculation of so-called “delta rent.” Delta rent is the difference between rent paid by long-term tenants versus newly evicted or renovicted units. A high delta rent provides a warning signal that mass redevelopment can provide the opportunity for significant profitability, through rent increases, for landlords. This is because under our current housing system, demolition-related eviction (“demoviction”) is a key means by which landlords can circumvent rent controls stipulated in the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). 

Section 49(6)a of the RTA gives landlords the right to end tenancy for the purpose of demolition. This gives landlords the power to either become developers or sell to developers and start fresh at higher market rents. BC does not have vacancy control, which means that by evicting tenants – whether for “landlord family use” or demolition – landlords automatically get out of the RTA’s imposed annual limits on allowable rent increase for tenancy. Premier David Eby has recently also passed a law so that developers and landlords who purchase buildings for this purpose are no longer required to pay the Property Transfer Tax. The law came into effect in January 2024. 

City of Vancouver Broadway Plan

It was amidst this public pressure and tenant pushback that Vancouver city council began drafting its framework for land use and development along the Broadway corridor. Throughout this period tenants continued to fight back, including a high-profile fight and partial victory in 2020 at Broadway and Carolina, led by 67-year-old Filipino immigrant Nelia Guevarra. Nelia won a buyout significantly higher than what the city’s Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy (TRPP) policy stipulated at the time. This was not a complete victory, and on the site of Nelia’s affordable apartment now stands a condo development. Yet she was able to push past the limits of the possible. 

Nelia (2020). Photo credit: Ryan Walter Wagner

Tenants increasingly faced off against landlords and developers both inside and outside city hall. By 2022, the result was a contradictory co-mingling of these divergent interests called the Broadway Plan, approved by Vancouver city council in June 2022 after a number of significant council debates and amendments.

COPE councillor Jean Swanson successfully pushed for meaningful amendments to the Broadway Plan. By channeling community-led initiative in council, Swanson forced the hand of centre-left councillors and Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who eventually gave qualified support and proposed amendments of their own. The result was a Broadway Plan that gives tenants return at stabilized rents, as well as tenant relocation assistance and a rent top-up (“bridge funding”) during the process of redevelopment. On June 22, 2022, city council voted in favor of the amended plan. The Plan officially came into effect in September 2022.

What now with ABC in charge?

In its final form, there were many compromises embedded in the Broadway Plan – for example, the refusal to outline any protections for affordable density and existing multi-storey apartment buildings. At the very least, the plan could have included a clause directing assemblies within non-dense areas, since much of the Broadway corridor – including the areas surrounding current and future transit hubs – remains sprawling single-family homes.1 

Now, with a new city council ruled by the right-wing ABC party, the enforcement of tenant protections in the Broadway Plan will be the subject of a long fight ahead. 

One of ABC council’s first decisions upon being elected was to abolish the city’s Renter Office. The Office was created by the previous council to enforce the Broadway Plan, among other things. When ABC abolished the Office in January 2023, the Broadway Plan was at the front of everyone’s mind. As Jen St. Denis reported at the time: 

Advocates say they’re concerned that Vancouver council’s move to kill the city’s Renter Office will leave tenants less protected, especially as new zoning to allow higher density development along the Broadway corridor brings more demolition of existing apartment buildings.

Clearly, the ABC council is not a friend of tenants and have consistently shown themselves to be trenchant supporters of the development industry. 

In May 2023, ABC council voted to reverse the municipal empty homes tax levied on unsold condos. After canceling the tax, council voted to retroactively return the tax money already levied. Literally millions of dollars were sent back to the head offices of BC’s most cash-flush corporations, including the likes of Concord Pacific, Westbank, Holborn, Metcap, and Starlight Investments. It is also worth referencing the political conveyer belt between Ken Sim and businessman Chip Wilson, the billionaire real-estate developer. 

Yet nothing in politics is inevitable. To complicate matters further, Ken Sim and ABC might also be unseated in the 2026 municipal elections, which means that a new council would be in place before anyone is relocated back to 25–55 East 12th. If tenants want to keep their rights, they will need to fight hard and play a long game.

Either way, politicians of all stripes can succumb to pressure and community mobilization. It is worth remembering that Kennedy Stewart himself has a long history of aligning with developers and supporting tenant displacement. Stewart was the MLA in Burnaby during the worst years of the Metrotown redevelopment process, which he endorsed. His relative about-face on tenant relocation under the Broadway Plan is a testament to the power of what tenants can do if they band together. 

The Burnaby experience, both during and after the Stewart years, gives another vivid illustration of this fact. 

The Burnaby Experience

It serves to briefly recall the scene of a crime known retroactively as “Metrotown 1.0”: the mass eviction meted out from 2014–2019. The Metrotown evictions were on a truly vast scale, involving thousands of residents. A total of 15 multi-storey apartment buildings were emptied in 2016 alone. The Metrotown experience, framed through the same transit-oriented optic as the Broadway Plan, should be a stark warning sign for a potential eviction maelstrom along the Broadway corridor.

In Burnaby it was propertyless tenants, not politicians, who responded to the evictions. This included exemplary opposition from hundreds of tenants and organizers with BC ACORN (Association of Community Organization for Reform Now), the Alliance Against Displacement (AAD), and the Stop Demovictions in Burnaby Campaign. Meanwhile Kennedy Stewart, at that time the BC NDP MLA for the Burnaby riding and two years shy of being the Mayor of Vancouver, gave his blessing to the mass eviction.

Tenants speak out against demoviction in Burnaby (July 2016). Photo by Nathan Crompton

Finally, in 2019, Burnaby city council decided to approve a Tenant Assistance Policy (TAP). The policy came into effect in March 2020 and was a direct response to years of tenant organizing and public pressure. It has been hailed as one of the most progressive tenant rezoning protections in Canada and is reputed to have influenced the crafting of Vancouver’s Broadway Plan two years later. But here, too, there are pressing lessons for Vancouver.

Some serious warning signs are emerging from Burnaby’s TAP. In one recent project at 4330 Maywood St., tenants have testified to a relocation “nightmare,” specifically related to the TAP’s rent top-ups during redevelopment (sometimes called “bridge funding”). The top-ups were paid by the developer in the form of a “bond” at a predetermined amount, with no plan to replenish the fund after the bond money is used up. The City of Burnaby is now sending letters to tenants stating that the redevelopment timeline is uncertain and that they should find alternative accommodation. All sides are pointing the finger at one another, and there is now the risk of a situation where neither the developer nor the city will take accountability.

Tenants in Vancouver need to seriously consider the possibility that long and drawn-out redevelopments will become a strategy used by owners. Because of the speculative nature of land valuation, empty properties are not necessarily a risk to profitability for developers. Large redevelopments like Little Mountain – now delayed for more than a decade – vividly demonstrate this fact. They also show how the promises of tenant right-of-first-refusal can be empty and hollow in our current political climate of pro-developer flattery. Most recently, city council’s obedience to capital has meant the cutting of social housing requirements for the first two phases of the Little Mountain redevelopment. Blessings from the ABC majority are perhaps unsurprising, but the BC NDP has also remained silent.

With indeterminate timelines also comes the question of unattended repairs and poor maintenance. In an interview with The Mainlander, VTU organizer Jess Gut points to the decline in building maintenance standards in buildings scheduled for redevelopment: “we are already hearing about tenants whose building is up for sale or recently sold in the Fairview area. They are being forced to move out because they can’t get the landlord to do any major repairs – even after taking their landlord for arbitration at the Residential Tenancy Branch.” 

Gut also recalls conditions in an almost-empty building in Metrotown in 2021. “In one building the timeline was so long, the owner just stopped doing repairs and the elevator was permanently broken. All the seniors on the 2nd and 3rd floors essentially had to self-evict and give up their right to return as outlined in the TAP.” 

High Rate of Attrition

Other Vancouver examples, like the redevelopment of Metro Vancouver’s Heather Place around 2014–15, also indicate that redevelopment projects can come with high rates of attrition. Even the mere announcement of a possible redevelopment can cause precarious tenants to self-evict, leaving their cherished homes in search of an elusive stability.

In the above-mentioned Burnaby redevelopment project at 4330 Maywood, only one third of eligible displaced tenants made it through to the relocation stage. On the other hand, as affordability in the wider rental market continues to worsen, many tenants might make the decision to stay and fight it out for lack of other options. We have nothing to lose but our chains.

So, what will the timeline look like for 25–55 East 12th? From the outset, it has been difficult to obtain the submitted documents. Management at Sommerville Community Relations – the company hired by the owners to interface with tenants – have not made the redevelopment application available despite inquiries from both tenants and The Mainlander. I am probably not alone among my neighbors in speculating in vain at the causes for the delayed transparency of the application.2 

Going forward, it would not be wrong to anticipate possible stonewalling from third-party developer “representatives,” but there are also possible bureaucratic delays at the city level. Bureaucratic delays mean uncertain futures for tenants. Jean Swanson estimates that with the abolition of the Renter Office, the city’s planning department could become swamped by the Broadway Plan.

Bureaucratic Inundation?  

In March 2023, Vancouver planning staff asked the ABC-led council to consider four possible options for the implementation of the Broadway Plan. These four options ranged from a slow process of only 5 buildings per year, all the way up to a “let ‘er rip” option of allowing an unlimited number of buildings (option two was for 15 buildings and option three was for 30). City staff estimates that with option four, roughly 2,000 tenant households will be dislocated per year.

At the time, ex-councillor Swanson warned that option four could mean a tenant relocation “wild west” amidst an overwhelmed bureaucracy:

Will the city have enough staff to enforce the current Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy that is 23 pages long and requires a lot of staff discretion and probably intervention between developers and tenants? With no renter office, are there enough people in the planning department to do this properly? With option three, staff would have to work with an estimated 910 tenant households per year. Are there enough staff to do this? If all the options are discarded, would it be impossible to enforce the tenant protections at all?

Even with an airtight policy, which the Broadway Plan most certainly is not, developer-friendly bureaucrats and city planners can tip the balance in favor of owners. But with a non-responsive and overwhelmed bureaucracy out of the picture, power is de facto handed over to the owners. Ultimately, at its meeting on March 29, 2023, ABC council decided to vote for the “let ‘er rip” option. In a recent interview with The Mainlander, Swanson reiterated her old concern: “how is the city bureaucracy going to be able to deal with these dozens of applications and hundreds of affected tenants all at once?”

Who Owns Our Housing?

In a report prepared for the VTU, housing researcher Liam Begley gives a breakdown of the ownership structure of 25–55 E 12th

There are two separate companies for 25 E 12th (“Trevor Court Holdings”) and 55 E 12th (“Fairview Court Holdings”), but they both fall under the umbrella of a single landlord named Steven Yan. Yan is the sole director of a company called Five Mile Holdings. He is also listed as the president of Fairview Court Holdings and the secretary of Trevor Court Holdings. 

Five Mile Holdings has 22 Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) decisions on file. “Five Mile is the landlord for multiple addresses,” adds Begley, “and is involved with the redevelopment of two other sites in the neighbourhood being developed by JTA Developments.”

JTA is the company hired by Yan to carry out the redevelopment. Sommerville Community Relations, in turn, is the company hired by JTA to conduct public relations and interface with tenants during the redevelopment process. Relations between Sommerville and JTA are quite intimate. Sommerville is staffed by former and current JTA Development staff. “It’s the same company as far as anyone who’s not an accountant is concerned,” says Begley. 

JTA Development is led by James Tod, although there is also a public record of James Tod speaking on behalf of Sommerville. JTA has performed multiple large scale developments of upscaling and densifying smaller apartment buildings, and this is not their first Broadway area project. Two others include 215–229 E 13th Avenue and 1190 W 10th Avenue. 

Next Steps?

An early move for tenants might be to attempt to meet with the CoV planning department, the body now responsible for the Broadway Plan. One simple and direct question for them might be: What are the mechanisms available to us if the developer reneges on their commitment? And what are the exact terms for an agreement under a Broadway Plan? What use is a binding document if it only binds us to displacement? 

There will be no single and simple accountable body for tenants to engage with. Furthermore, each of the corporate actors involved are, technically, separate and independent. But there are also deep links and overlap between each player, including the City itself. Tod, for example, sits on the City of Vancouver Renter’s Advisory Council. 

This public role of JTA in speaking on behalf of renters at the Renter’s Advisory Council “instinctively feels wrong,” says Begley. It only makes sense that tenants should speak for ourselves and make links within our community. A good start for tenants at 25–55 E 12th might be to contact tenants at JTA’s other two redevelopment projects in order to build connections and compare notes – together we are stronger. 


1 The block of 25–55 East 12th features an empty gravel lot used as a parking lot, to be untouched by the redevelopment, and next to that a single-family home that has sat empty since a fire engulfed it in December 2022, also not included in the redevelopment. The next block over is exclusively reserved for single-family homes, equidistant from Broadway.

2 The most recent redevelopment application uploaded to the city’s website (posted online on March 8th) had been initially submitted to the city on September 19th, 2023. For comparison: the 25–55 E 12th application was submitted two months later, on November 30th, 2023. This indicates that there is at least a two-month backlog for city bureaucrats to wade through before processing and posting the 25–55 redevelopment application. Yet there are also applications on the city’s website that were received as recently as Feb 2024 and are public, which suggests there might be additional reasons – beyond simple backlog – to account for the non-public status of 25–55 E 12th