Stop describing market rentals as affordable, Vancouver city council finally orders staff

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      They’re considered by many as anything but affordable.

      Yet for several years, these private rental developments in Vancouver were routinely referred to by city staff as affordable housing.

      As councillor Adriane Carr noted in the past, half of the city’s renter households cannot afford these homes.

      For housing activist Sara Sagaii, the term ‘for-profit affordable rental housing’ is an oxymoron.

      A portion of a wide-ranging motion approved by council on Tuesday (November 26) will end the practice of describing these rentals as affordable.

      These would be rental projects that are seeking approval by council to receive several incentives, particularly exemptions on the payment of development cost levies or DCLs.

       “We can be more honest about what these DCL-waiving projects are not,” councillor Pete Fry told the Georgia Straight.

      According to Fry, the practice of calling these developments as ‘for-profit affordable housing’ is a “sticking point for many”.

      “We know these projects typically aren’t affordable to median-income folk in our city,” Fry said.

      The city’s rental incentives guidelines identify maximum starting rents for projects seeking exemptions from DCL payments.

      For example, on the east side of the city, a studio unit is deemed affordable if the starting monthly rent for 2019 is $1,607.

      Using the standard affordability measure of allotting 30 percent of household income for housing, this rent of $1,607 is affordable for people earning $64,280 per year.

      Councillor Carr earlier pointed out that half of Vancouver’s renter households earn less than $50,000.

      Referencing the income of $50,000, Carr previously argued that rents should $1,250 per month or less.

      Per the city’s guidelines for 2019, a one-bedroom on the east side should go for $1,869; two bedrooms, $2,457; and three bedrooms, $3,235.

      On the west side, the bylaw provides a monthly rent for a studio at $1,768; one bedroom, $2,056; two bedrooms, $2,703; and three bedrooms, $3,559.

      A rent of $3,559 is affordable for households earning $142,360 a year.

      The said rents start at the day city council holds a public hearing on the rezoning application for the projects.

      After the public hearing, the developer can increase rents yearly based on provincial guidelines while the project is being built.