Housing Affordability in Vancouver 2013
Vancouver identifies solutions to severe housing challenges
Vancouver continues to have the highest housing prices and one of the tightest rental markets in Canada. Mayor Gregor Robertson and Council have spent considerable time and effort looking for solutions.
Actions have included:
- the Talk Housing To Us campaign in 2011;
- establishing an 18-member Task Force on Housing Affordability co-chaired by the Mayor, and developer and former MLA Olga Ilich, which includes real estate and rental housing experts, home builders, elected officials and not-for-profit housing managers from across Metro Vancouver, and
- the re:THINK HOUSING ideas competition.
On September 26, 2012, the Task Force on Housing Affordability released its final report, including four recommendations:
- Increase supply and diversity of affordable housing. This includes density in large developments such as Marine Gateway, South East False Creek, East Fraser Lands and transit-oriented locations.
- Enhance the city’s and the community’s capacity to deliver affordable rental and social housing. This includes creating the new Affordable Housing Authority to deliver affordable rental and social housing by using city lands.
- Protect existing social and affordable rental housing and explore opportunities to renew and expand the stock.
- Streamline and create more certainty and clarity in the regulatory process, and improve public engagement.
Recommendations are targeted to residents with an annual maximum income of $21,500 for an individual and $86,500 for a family.
A staff report prepared by David McLellan, Deputy City Manager, summarized the final report of the Task Force on Housing Affordability, the re:THINK HOUSING ideas competition, and the 2011 Talk Housing To Us campaign, and put forward three priority recommendations (approved by Council on October 3, 2012). The recommendations included:
- developing an operational model and business plan for the Affordable Housing Authority;
- implementing the “Thin Street” pilot project in three communities: Marpole, the West End, and Grandview-Woodland, where their Community Plans are currently under review; and
- enabling duplexes, rowhouses and stacked townhouses to be built within 1.5 blocks of an arterial street.
Council’s decision sparked widespread concerns from residents across Vancouver, who are worried that if implemented, the recommendations would densify existing neighbourhoods too quickly.
In response, Mayor Robertson promised to increase opportunities for engagement with residents and neighbourhoods before any final, long-term decisions are made.
“This is about creating affordable housing that respects neighbourhood character — housing that the market is currently not producing,” explained Mayor Robertson.
“It’s about working together to build the housing our city desperately needs: affordable units for seniors who need to downsize, for young families who want to live where they work, and for students starting out on their own.”
Residents are particularly concerned about the Thin Street pilot project, raising questions about the possibility that emergency vehicles would be unable to access narrow streets, the costs to relocate sidewalks and street lights and the problems associated with having far less parking.
Mayor Robertson responded by proposing changes to the Thin Street pilot project. “Thin streets is an idea that has some merit, and it has certainly gotten a lot of attention, but I want to be clear — this is not something we’re going to force on any neighbourhood,” explains Mayor Robertson. “If it’s going to happen, there needs to be community buy-in.”
The Mayor also directed staff to consult with the city’s citizen advisory groups, and reconvene the Talk Housing to Us Renters’ Roundtable, during the next eight months to get feedback and report back to council by June 2013.
Council voted on affordability plan
On October 3, 2012 Mayor Robertson and City Council voted to:
- accelerate work to create the Affordable Housing Authority;
- review regulations to enhance building upgrades and protections for renters; and
- proceed with a new affordable housing interim re-zoning bylaw, enabling up to 20 projects such as new rowhouses, townhouses, and duplexes to be considered near major transit arterials (bus and SkyTrain routes), provided they are 100% rental or sold at 20% below market.
“There is no magic solution that will solve Vancouver’s housing affordability challenge, but the Task Force’s recommendations provide a clear framework for progress,” noted Mayor Robertson. “Making Vancouver a more affordable city is crucial for our economy, our livability, and for future generations. City hall needs to take action and now is the time to do it.”
To read the final Task Force report, visit: http://bit.ly/housingaction
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