News / Vancouver

Vancouver unveils ambitious plan to match new housing to incomes

The city needs double the expected 16,000 new units that will be built over the next decade.

Vancouver's Mount Pleasant neighbourhood

Jennifer Gauthier/For Metro

Vancouver's Mount Pleasant neighbourhood

In Vancouver, if your income is anywhere below $150,000, you’ll have a hard time buying a new condo. If you make less than $50,000, good luck finding a rental that doesn’t eat up more than 30 per cent of your paycheque.

“We found a significant gap for people who are single and making less than $50,000 a year, we’re going to be producing less than half of the housing they need,” said Kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas, general manager of community services for the City of Vancouver. A new analysis from the City of Vancouver illustrates just how unaffordable housing has gotten for low to middle income earners.

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“For people looking to buy, the same thing: while lots of condos are being built, they’re micro-suites and one-bedrooms and that doesn’t suit families.”

Over the next 10 years, the supply of housing that people who earn less than $50,000 will be able to afford will lag by 9,500 units, compared to the 5,000 units expected to be built under current policies. Supply of housing for people who earn more than $50,000 will fall short by 11,800 units, showing the need is double the expected 10,000 units.

How many units of housing anticipated to be added in the next decade, compared with the number of units needed to meet demand

City of Vancouver

How many units of housing anticipated to be added in the next decade, compared with the number of units needed to meet demand

City staff say this is the first time they’ve analyzed housing need based on income levels. They say it was an important exercise because it shows the extent of the need for housing for occupations that are vital to the city’s economy. Many people in sales and service jobs, for instance, don’t make enough income to comfortably afford even an older one-bedroom rental.

The data is spurring a new effort from the city to require developers to include not just market rental or a social housing component in new buildings, but a percentage of units that would be rented or sold to people at various income bands.

Nearly half of Vancouver's population makes less than $50,000, and it's become very hard to find affordable housing at that income level

City of Vancouver/Statistics Canada 2011 National Household Survey

Nearly half of Vancouver's population makes less than $50,000, and it's become very hard to find affordable housing at that income level

City housing planner Abi Bond said more research needs to be done on the idea, but that type of housing could be secured through a covenant placed on the units, similar to the way the city ensures a certain percentage of apartments in a condo building are set aside for market rental.

In order to make sure renters or buyers accessing that housing actually need it, the city would likely have to check that their incomes match the housing, Bond said. While there are many details to be worked out, there are other jurisdictions, like New York City, that have similar systems in place.

City staff don’t believe Vancouver would need financial help from the province or federal government to help subsidize this rent-to-income program. Instead, the city expects to be able to negotiate with private developers, said chief planner Gil Kelley.

Staff are also suggesting putting in place a pilot program to speed up permitting for affordable housing projects, and want to expand Rental 100, a program that gave incentives to developers who built new rental buildings. Looking at options to densify single-family neighbourhoods through allowing more duplexes, rowhouses and infill is also on the table. The two neighbourhoods the city has identified so far to start this work are Grandview-Woodlands and Mount Pleasant.

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