Short Term Incentives program spurs rentals

The West End is bracing for a rush of rezoning activity this year.

Following Vancouver city council’s approval in December of the redevelopment of 1215 Bidwell Street, residents expect at least three more applications to move forward. These involve plans for residential towers at 1401 Comox Street, 1754 Pendrell Street, and 1245 Harwood Street.

According to Brent Granby, president of the West End Residents Association, the new projects will fall under the city’s Short Term Incentives for Rental program. But he doubts these will produce affordable housing.

“One of the points that we tried to push council on is you need to be able to guarantee what the rent is going to be in those places,” Granby told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “You should actually be entering into an agreement on what rent would be charged in those units.”

This is something that the city isn’t prepared to do, according to Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie.

“We know intuitively that rental housing is more affordable than the purchase of strata-titled units,” Louie told the Straight by phone. “So there’s a level of affordability. Certainly, it’s not at the lowest level. I think that should be addressed at the provincial and federal levels.”

The citywide STIR program provides a package of incentives for developers of rental accommodations. These include a waiver of development-cost levies and a reduction in development fees, meaning that certain developers are essentially being subsidized.

A 22-storey, all-rental building with 193 units is being proposed at the Comox address. Granby expects the developer of 1754 Pendrell to resubmit under STIR an application to build a 19-storey tower with 34 condos and 10 rental units. Details are not yet available for the Harwood project.

In the case of the Bidwell site, the developer will put up a 20-storey building with 49 market rental units and 98 condos.

According to Granby, the average annual household income in the West End is $38,000. “If you spend 30 percent of your income on housing, you should only be spending $950 per month,” he said.

Louie noted that the new rental units are expected to command higher rents than existing ones. However, “as these units degrade and get older, they become more affordable,” he added.

Louie said that what the city is doing is creating stability in the rental stock by requiring new units built under STIR to be designated as rental for the life of the building.




Jan 7, 2010 at 9:07am

Here we go again, another Vancouver council who believes the myth that increased density equals affordability. The reality is it increases profitability and the city tax base. It is only the renters and residents of the West End who get to live with fewer amenities, less open sky, more traffic, less park and no input into how we want redevelopment to proceed.

R. Alan

Jan 7, 2010 at 11:59am

The STIR program was rushed through Council in spring 2009 without ANY public input. Yet it will result in a race by hungry developers to push Council to approve tall towers (100 year building life) in the remaining months before the STIR program is set to expire in June 2011. The West End could use new construction, but not without a comprehensive plan developed in consultation with the community. The only concrete example used in STIR discussion documents was for a four-storey building. No one talked about radically altering neighborhoods without community consultation. Is this the way Vision Vancouver will run the city? Where is the plan? Where is the Vision? Where is the consultation with citizens?

Wendy Dalton

Jul 18, 2012 at 1:24am

It is all about money for the rich and widening the gap between rich and poor with a big hole in the bridge that used to be middle class. Anyway only the buildings that deteriorate and have rats and racoons living in the walls will be used for the "New Poor".

Move to Surrey now while prices are low because no one is looking at where the future is headed. Vancouver will be full of the very rich who will be surrounded by the working poor, disabled and homeless in the ghettos.