Mayor and Council approve significant new West End rental housing
After an extensive public hearing process and over two years of review and public input, City Council has approved 133 new units of rental housing in Vancouver’s West End. The project will be only the second new purpose-built West End rental building in a decade, underscoring the pressing need for new rental housing in a neighbourhood with Vancouver’s lowest average rental vacancy rate (0.85%).
Council also moved to implement a special housing agreement that will lock-in the proposed rents of the building to ensure that they do not increase between the time the project is approved and the final construction.
“With 133 new rental units, this project is another important step toward meeting the urgent need for new rental housing in the West End and across Vancouver,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Over half of Vancouver’s population are renters and yet Vancouver’s rental stock has been in decline for decades. The City of Vancouver is committed to the creation of significant new rental housing in Vancouver to ensure we’re building a city that is more affordable and accessible for residents of all ages, incomes, and backgrounds.”
58% of the project consists of two bedroom units that are geared toward families. Based on community feedback, the project is a mix of low and mid-rise buildings – the tallest of which is just nine storeys in height.
There are four existing buildings surrounding the project, ranging from 19 to 21 storeys in height, originally built in the late 1960s. Having undergone significant public consultation since first being proposed in November 2010, the new project earned support from both the Vancouver Heritage Commission and the Vancouver Urban Design Panel, both of whom reviewed it twice. Revisions based on reviews and public input included lowering the height of the buildings to reduce view impacts and reshaping the buildings to increase public space at ground level.
The project provides market rental housing as an alternative to home ownership, as the monthly costs for West End ownership are 50% percent higher than rents for a one bedroom unit and 75% higher than for a two bedroom unit in this project.
“The construction of rental housing is a crucial component of our work to make Vancouver a more affordable and livable city for everyone,” added the Mayor. “The 2012 Housing and Homelessness Report Card showed that the City has already exceeded its 2014 goal for new rental housing, and this project represents further progress toward ensuring that seniors, young families, and students can all afford to make Vancouver their home.”
The project also does not require any subsidy from the city, and is generating a community amenity contribution of $243,000 to be allocated following the completion of the new West End community plan.
In addition to creating substantial new rental housing, the City of Vancouver has taken a number of steps to make housing more affordable and provide support for renters. These include:
- Launching a Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability
- Approving the development of an arms-length Affordable Housing Authority
- Offering six sites of city-owned land for lease to non-profits for affordable rental housing
- The opening of Vancouver’s first Rent Bank, to support renters in crisis with short-term loans
- The creation of the Rental 100 Program, which provides incentives for the development of new, 100% rental buildings
- The launch of the online Rental Standards Database, which will enable renters to search out buildings that have current safety issues
- Hosting the international ideas competition re:THINK Housing, to solicit ideas from around the world on how to create new affordable housing