A Maple Ridge firefighter assists a tenant escape from a burning apartment at the Sunrise complex in March 2015.

A Maple Ridge firefighter assists a tenant escape from a burning apartment at the Sunrise complex in March 2015.

Reconstruction will add rental apartments in Maple Ridge

Sunrise building to be torn down.

When the Sunrise Apartments burned a year ago, 54 rental apartments were ruined and more than 100 people lost their homes.

That hurt people at a time when reasonably-priced rentals are hard to come by.

Now there’s a plan to rebuild the site at 22292 – 122nd Ave., and create three times as many rental apartments.

Council looked at a request for first reading Tuesday to build one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments in a two-stage project.

If approved, the existing building that was gutted by fire will be torn down and replaced by a new one. That will allow people who are living in the Sorrento Apartments, at 22260 – 122nd Ave., to move into the new building. Then demolition can proceed with the Sorrento, part of the same complex, allowing construction of the second new building.

The project will involve adding two extra lots that face 223rd Street so that the first building also adjoins to that road, creating an L-shaped building.

The second building will be rebuilt after the first one is constructed, so that tenants have a place to go.

Council liked the proposal, although the total number of new apartments wasn’t included in the application.

However, Coun. Bob Masse said the project will provide a total of 291 new apartments.

“We definitely need more three bedrooms available,” said Coun. Corisa Bell.

Councillors were concerned that at least some of the rents remain affordable for those on low incomes.

Coun. Gordy Robson said he’d like to see the complex include 12 units that would be set aside for people on fixed incomes.

Coun. Kiersten Duncan also was worried about higher rents that will be charged for the new apartments. “It’s especially detrimental to people living on fixed incomes.”

Coun. Bob Masse said he didn’t realize how much affordable housing was provided by the apartments until one of the buildings burned.

“So some of them ended up in our shelter, some of them ended up in pretty bad circumstances,” he said.

“So thank you for providing that housing,” he said to the building’s owner, Viam Holdings.

In all, the 54 units at the Sunrise and the 41 units at the Sorrento will be replaced by a total of 291 new apartments.

Masse wants city staff to work at keeping at least the same number of apartments at affordable rates or kept at what they were.

“We need that lower-than-market housing. We need a fairly good supply of it,” he said.

“We need to create rental stock in this community,” Mayor Nicole Read added.

One way to ensure rents are controlled could be through a “housing agreement’” with the developer and city, said Coun. Tyler Shymkiw.

Rezoning two of smaller lots on 223rd Street from single family to apartment is required for the project.