News / Vancouver

Vancouver approves rules to encourage three-bedroom rental units

In an effort to help the 8,000 families that live in studio or one-bedroom apartments in Vancouver have access to bigger homes, city council approved rules on Wednesday to encourage developers to build three-bedroom units.

The vote wasn’t unanimous, but the Vision-dominated council was able to pass the regulations that waive development cost levies – fees that go towards city services such as parks, recreation and childcare – for rental buildings that include three-bedroom units if builders promise to keep rents below certain levels and secure the units as rentals for 60 years or the life of the building.

Previously the incentive only applied to studio, one and two-bedroom units.

A developer who spoke at council said that discouraged his company from including three-bedroom units in the mix because they would lose the enticement for the rest of the building.

“Two bedrooms is just not big enough if you have a family of two or more kids,” Westcorp Development Inc.’s Pat Jang said. “We cannot discriminate against these people based on family size.”

While some councillors disagreed that developers need an extra incentive to build market rental housing and questioned whether such units can genuinely be labeled affordable, Vision councillors argued the long-term rentals adds an option for people who cannot afford to own.

Their argument is bolstered by city data that found just 530 three bedrooms out of the city’s 55,850 purpose-built rental units. Of those, only about five are estimated to be available based on the city’s low vacancy rates.

“When we see less than one per cent of our rental housing in three bedroom units, clearly there’s a real problem,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said. “We know we’re losing families from the city who can’t stay in the city because there’s not adequate space at a rent they can afford… we need more housing built for families, this is one tool the city can take to make it happen.”

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