Vancouver seeks applicants to build rental housing on six city-owned sites
Vancouver is looking to lease six city-owned sites for the development of below-market rental housing.
A request for expressions of interest was launched today (August 9) as part of an initiative the city estimates could generate 500 rental units.
“We know that affordability is a real issue, and one of the drivers, as has been explained to us many times, is of course the cost of land,” Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang told the Straight by phone. “So we have identified six plots of land that the city owns that we will put up for...a nominal lease.”
Jang indicated the rental prices will be below market rates, and proponents will be required to outline their model for affordability in the buildings. He said the housing the city wants to create through the initiative is targeted at a range of low to middle-income tenants, including young people and families.
“Essentially we want to be able to bring diversity into the neighbourhoods, because that’s going to help our economy,” he said. “You’ve got your workers living here, not having to commute in from Surrey or somewhere else far afield everyday.”
The six sites are located in Kensington-Cedar Cottage and Killarney. Jang said the sites were chosen in part for their proximity to transit and amenities.
The land will be made available to successful not-for-profit and private sector applicant teams in exchange for a nominal long-term ground lease. The approach was one of the recommendations included in the interim report of the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability.
According to the request for expressions of interest document, other potential development incentives could include a development cost levy waiver, reduced parking requirements, and a fast-tracked approvals process.
Nathan Crompton, an organizer with the Vancouver Renters’ Union, questioned whether the city's initiative will translate to rental units that are truly affordable.
His group wants to see the city clearly define an affordability threshold, and ensure the rates are significantly lower than market value.
“The city should use its own land for non-market solutions, rather than get the development industry to decide what affordability is,” he told the Straight by phone.
Crompton added the renters’ union would like to see the affordable units rented for 30 percent of the monthly income of low-income tenants.
Shortlisted candidates for the program will be announced in October, at which point a more detailed request for proposals will likely be issued, and final projects announced in early 2013.
Jang said the targeted completion date for the new buildings is 2015.