City of Vancouver staff propose sweeping changes to curb speculation in large area around Broadway subway

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      Call it Mayor Gregor Robertson's speculation tax. 

      Senior staff have proposed aggressive measures to curb land speculation over a large area around around the proposed Millennium Line Broadway Extension—including development contributions designed to fatten city coffers. 

      The Broadway subway will be built from VCC-Clark Station to Arbutus and it will include six stations.

      While a new planning process is underway, Vancouver city staff have recommended that no new rezoning applications be considered in the “Broadway Study Area”, unless they’re for 100 percent social and supportive housing, or community care facilities for group residents.

      In a report going to the Wednesday (June 20) policy and strategic priorities committee, this Broadway Study Area is defined as a large swath of land. It extends from Clark Drive in East Vancouver to Vine Street in Kitsilano, and from 16th Avenue to 1st Avenue.

      Rezoning applictions that have already been submitted, such as for the redevelopment of the Denny's restaurant in the 1200 block of West Broadway, will proceed under the existing rules.

      Staff have also recommended that council approve the “Development Contribution Expectations in Areas Undergoing Community Planning policy”. This is designed to limit land speculation in the area.

      This approach would reverse the typical process of setting community amenity contributions through negotiations.

      According to the staff report, this will provide clarity for developers who hope to build above what’s permitted under the existing zoning.

      Staff have recommended contributions to the city of $330 per square foot for additional market strata residential in areas east of Main Street. The recommendation is for $425 per square foot west of Main Street that’s beyond existing zoning.

      This area shows the proposed "Broadway Study Area" where rezoning applications wouldn't be allowed except under very specific circumstances.

      The report points out that 27 percent of the city’s purpose-built rental units are within the study area.

      “Land speculation can contribute to rising land costs, impact housing and job space affordability, and hurt the City’s ability to deliver affordable rental housing and provide community amenities to serve the needs of our growing population,” the report states. “In recognition of these challenges, Council directed staff through the Housing Vancouver Action Plan to bring forward a policy to stabilize land values in emerging plan areas.”

      In a PowerPoint presentation to “stakeholders” on May 22, the city referred to the Broadway Corridor as “home to the second largest employment centre in British Columbia”.
      The key priorities in the planning process are to retain job space (including in the Burrard Slopes area) and provide affordable rental housing.

      “Planning for Broadway now provides an opportunity to coordinate transit-supportive land use, affordable housing policies, transportation connectivity and public realm design with the rapid transit project,” the PowerPoint document states.

      It adds that rising land costs undermine the city’s “ability to achieve affordable rental housing and provide public amenities to serve needs of a growing population”.

      There are already some high-rises near West Broadway, but newer ones will likely require substantial and predictable payments to the city from developers.
      Charlie Smith

      “Buyers and sellers of land in the Broadway Corridor need to recognize the City’s intention to limit speculation and to achieve affordable rental housing, public amenities and infrastructure as part of community planning.”

      There are five phases to the plan, including the development of guiding principles by June 2019.

      Phase two of the plan, which is expected to be completed by December 2019, will outline “growth scenarios and patterns for change in land uses”.

      The third phase, which is expected to be done by June 2020, will include a draft policy for land use, density, layout, built form, and design. The plan will be finalized by December 2020 with a yet-to-be determined implementation date.


      Vancouver city council voted in favour of the staff recommendations at the June 20 policy and strategic priorities committee meeting.