The City of Vancouver has been subsidizing the wrong kind of rental developments.
This is what Green Councillor Adriane Carr is saying in a motion on notice.
According to her motion, it is not the right kind of rental housing because more than 50 percent of renter households in Vancouver cannot afford these homes.
“Vancouver has been primarily incentivizing and subsidizing rental housing only affordable for households at higher incomes,” Carr states in her motion that is included in council’s agenda Tuesday (February 12).
These homes are the products of Rental 100, a program introduced by the previous Vision Vancouver administration that provides incentives to developers of what is called ‘for profit affordable’ rentals.
These incentives include exemption from paying development cost levies or DCLs, which run to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Under the rental-incentive guidelines for 2018, for profit affordable rental homes are those that offer certain levels of market rents at the day of public hearing for the applications. Developers can increase rents yearly after the public hearing while they build the projects.
For the East Side, these are $1,496 for a studio, $1,730 for a one bedroom, $2,505 for two bedrooms, and $3,365 for three bedrooms.
For the West Side, the starting rents are $1,646 for a studio, $1,903 for a one bedroom, $2,756 for two bedrooms, and $3,702 for three bedrooms.
In her motion, Carr notes that in order for a household to afford the lowest starting rent in the East Side at $1,496, it has to have an annual income of $59,840.
Carr arrived at the amount of $59,840 by factoring in the widely accepted affordability standard that a household should not pay more than 30 percent of gross income on housing.
However, less than half of households earn that level of income.
“Given that 50 percent of Vancouver renter households earn less than $50,000 per year, affordable rents for half of Vancouver’s renter households should be, at the most, $1,250 per month or less,” Carr notes.
In her motion, Carr recommends a review of all housing programs in the city.
She also suggests supporting the delivery of the “right” supply of homes to “truly match residents’ needs for affordable housing”.
In January this year, council approved two ‘for profit affordable’ rentals on East Hastings Street.
Carr joined Mayor Kennedy Stewart, and councillors Rebecca Bligh, Adriane Carr, Melissa De Genova, Colleen Hardwick, Sarah Kirby-Yung, and Michael Wiebe in supporting the rezoning application for 3532 East Hastings Street. Councillors Jean Swanson and Christine Boyle voted against the application. Councillor Pete Fry abstained. Councillor Lisa Dominato was absent.
For the application for 3435 East Hastings Street, only Swanson of the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) cast the only negative vote. Dominato was absent.
During the term of the previous council, Carr in 2018 successfully introduced a motion to audit Rental 100, and its predecessor, the Short Term Incentives for Rental (STIR).
“I have heard from people that there are some projects that came through either the Rental 100 or the earlier STIR program that really never have delivered the kind of affordability that we expected,” Carr told the Georgia Straight by phone at that time.
A report to council regarding Carr’s suggested audit is expected from city staff sometime this year.