Jean Swanson files council motion to stop City of Vancouver subsidy for market-rate rental projects

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      A Vancouver councillor wants the city to end financial breaks for developers of rental housing charging market rates.

      These are known as ‘for-profit affordable rental’ projects, which critics say are not affordable housing.

      Councillor Jean Swanson has filed a motion to “suspend, as soon as possible, the development cost levy waiver for for-profit rental housing”.

      Under the city’s 2019 guidelines, a developer is exempt from paying development cost levies or DCLs if rents at new East Side developments start at the following rates: studio, $1,607; one bedroom, $1,869; two bedrooms, $2,457; and three bedrooms, $3,235.

      For West Side developments, the following rates are considered ‘affordable’ by the city: studio, $1,768; one bedroom, $2,056; two bedrooms, $2,703; and three bedrooms, $3,559.

      “An oxymoron,” is how housing activist Sara Sagaii describes the city’s definition of these projects as ‘for profit affordable rental’.

      The rates start on the day council holds a public hearing on the rezoning applications under the Rental 100 program.

      After the public hearing, the developer can increase rents yearly until the project is built.

      In addition, the starting rates apply only to the first tenant. After initial occupancy, any rent that the market can bear is allowed.

      “There is growing concern that housing created under the Rental 100 program is not affordable enough to meet the needs of Vancouver renters, due in part to rules that allow owners to raise rents without limit after the first tenant leaves and because initial rents are high,” Swanson stated in the motion.

      Swanson is the only member of the current council who has consistently voted against Rental 100 developments. She is the lone councillor of the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE).

      In a previous interview with the Georgia Straight, Swanson indicated that she was considering a motion to suspend Rental 100.

      However, Swanson noted that that it’s difficult even getting another councillor to support her.

      “Well, I tried to talk about it, but I am having a hard time getting a seconder,” Swanson said by phone in the interview earlier this month.

      Swanson's motion is included in council's agenda Tuesday (April 2).

      On April 4, council will hold public hearings on two rezoning applications for 'for-profit affordable rental' developments.

      One is at 2715 West 12th Avenue. The value of the DCL waiver endorsed by city staff for this project is $187,768.

      The other rezoning application is for a 'for-profit affordable rental' at  1303 Kingsway and 3728 Clark Drive. The DCL waiver sought is $1,052,134.