Five things about Vancouver’s new housing plan
The city wants to add 72,000 new housing units geared towards low-to-middle income residents and families over the next decade. Is it realistic?
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City of Vancouver planners are putting the finishing touches on a revamp of city housing policies, which they hope will put permanent, stable housing in reach of families, lower-income workers and young people. Staff will present the final plan to council in the fall for approval. Here’s what they’ve put together so far:
By the numbers
Vancouver is aiming to build 72,000 new units of “affordable” housing over the next 10 years. That breaks down into subsets of supply geared towards single people and families who make different incomes. For instance, 4,000 of those units would be “below market” rental units for people making between $30,000 and $80,000, while 10,000 units would be family-suitable townhomes, rowhouses and laneway houses (split between owned and rented). The city also wants to build 12,000 units for the lowest-income residents, but will need the help of senior levels of government to achieve that goal.
Rental, rental and more rental
For the past 30 years, condo construction has dominated Vancouver’s new housing supply while rental has languished. With soaring rents and a vacancy rate below one per cent, Vancouver is now pledging to change that by encouraging developers to build rental, and include below-market units in new buildings. The city will add the increased rental expectations to area plans, such as a plan for Joyce-Collingwood Station that will add in 4-6 storey rental along streets that are currently low density. Oakridge and the Cambie Corridor are other locations for this strategy.
But will they build it?
While the city’s plan requires developers to build more rental and include more below-market and social housing, developers are on board with the plan, says the Urban Development Institute’s Anne McMullin. She’s urging the city to pre-zone areas so developers know what to expect in terms of density or rental requirements and don’t have to go through the lengthy rezoning process. She calls the plan “aggressive” when it comes to more housing supply, which developers have been pushing for.
What about Burnaby?
Coun. George Affleck spoke about the huge loss of rental units in Burnaby. The municipality has lost nearly 500 units over the past seven years, at a time when most other municipalities have been adding new rental and protecting older stock. But Vancouver still leads the region when it comes to building new rental. “Perhaps we should not be looking to the province and federal government right now, we should be looking to our neighbours in Burnaby, White Rock and Delta, in West Vancouver and North Vancouver,” Affleck said. “They’re letting us down.”
The priciest detached house neighbourhoods on the Westside lost hundreds of residents between 2011 and 2016. During the same period, hundreds of older homes were torn down in those neighbourhoods and replaced with larger homes. The city hopes that by relaxing traditional single family zoning and allowing laneway houses that can be sold off if the character home is retained, the Westside can again become a vibrant neighbourhood attractive to young families.