Income of $150,000 needed to live in City of Vancouver-approved "affordable" rental: lawyer Nathalie Baker

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      The City of Vancouver has recently approved a Kerrisdale rental development that supposedly contributes to its affordable housing goals.

      The rezoning application for the project at 2109 West 35th Avenue was supported by council on a motion tabled by Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie, and seconded by Vision councillor Andrea Reimer.

      The rents start at $1,903 per month for a one-bedroom unit, and $3,702 for a three-bedroom unit, on the date of the public hearing, which was July 10, 2018.

      Green councillor Adriane Carr was the only one who voted against the project.

      At the July 10 public hearing, Nathalie Baker, a litigator who specializes in municipal law, addressed council and pointed out that the rental project is far from affordable.

      “That’s not what it is,” Baker told councillors.

      Baker pointed out that the city’s affordable housing goals are purportedly meant to benefit people with moderate incomes.

      She said that based on city staff reports, moderate incomes range from $30,000 to $80,000 per year.

      The Vancouver lawyer noted that housing is considered affordable if housing costs are 30 percent of gross income.

      In the case of the 2109 West 35th Avenue development, Baker said that renters must have an annual income of $150,000 to be able to manage paying the rent for a three-bedroom unit at $3,702 per month, based on the 30 percent affordability threshold.

      According to Baker, the starting rents for the three bedrooms are out of the range by moderate income earners.

      With respect to the one-bedroom unit, which will have a starting rent of $1,903, Baker said that a renter must have an income of $76,000 to manage monthly rents at the 30 percent affordability threshold.

      Baker pointed out that this means that a renter on the higher scale of the moderate income range can barely afford a one-bedroom at the development.

      Baker likewise said that the median income of a single renter in the city is $35,000. The median income for renter households is $50,000.

      The rents start on the date of the public hearing. The developer can increase rents annually during construction, which means that the first occupants will pay more than the rates reported to council at the public hearing.

      Baker told council that if the city wants expensive housing that wealthy renters can afford, then it should say so, instead of claiming that these projects are affordable.