Vancouver city council increases “for-profit affordable rental housing” incentives

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      If only it wasn’t touted as affordable.

      Vancouver councillor Adriane Carr wrestled with this problem when she considered her vote on a move to provide developers incentives to build three-bedroom rentals.

      That has been the Green politician’s problem overall with the city’s Rental 100 program, which until a vote today (May 27) provided builders rewards for putting up studio-, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom rental units.

      They’re called “for-profit affordable rental housing”, and Carr doesn’t think they are. She said she would vote yes if only the word affordable was taken out.

      In the end, Carr voted against the new incentives, as did Non-Partisan Association councillors George Affleck, Elizabeth Ball, and Melissa De Genova.

      “We are producing rental housing. There’s a value in producing rental housing,” Carr said in council chambers. “But what I don’t want is when we report out that we’re achieving so much affordable housing. Yet it isn’t affordable to the vast majority of people.”

      Under the scheme recommended by staff, averaged monthly rents for three-bedroom units in projects that would qualify for exemptions from development cost levies (DCL) are $2,338 on the east side of the city, and $2,572 on the west side.

      For smaller rentals, the qualifying rental rates for DCL exemptions are studio, $1,242 (east side), $1,366, west side; one bedroom, $1,561 (east side), $1,717 (west side); and two bedrooms, $1,972 (east side), $2,169 (west side).

      Vision councillor Raymond Louie maintained that the creation of new rentals will meet some of the demand in the market.

      “There will be more supply,” Louie said in council chambers.

      Louie also reminded opposition councillors that senior levels of government had in the past provided incentives like tax breaks and loan programs to encourage the creation of a range of housing options.

      “It’s easy to say ‘no’. It’s easy to point to perhaps some minute challenges with a program,” Louie said. “But ultimately, this program, this allowance, will build more units. They will give families a chance to live in our city.”

      Louie’s Vision colleague Kerry Jang pointed out the new rentals being produced under the program are in fact more affordable than others.

      Jang cited the two rezoning applications considered by council on Tuesday (May 26).

      One was for 5648-5678 Victoria Drive, a mixed-use project with 48 ‘secured for-profit affordable rental housing units’.

      According to a staff report, the applicant’s estimates of rents of $809 for a studio, $1,191 for a one-bedroom, and $1,603 for a two-bedroom are lower compared to “average rents in newer buildings in East Vancouver”.

      The other application was for 3819 Boundary Road with 23 rental units. A staff report about this development noted that the initial rents will be $950 for a studio, $1,050 for a one-bedroom, and $1,450 for a two-bedroom.

      “When compared to average rents in newer buildings in East Vancouver, the proposed rents are lower,” staff reported. “When compared to home ownership costs, the proposed rents in this application will provide an affordable alternative to home ownership, particularly for the larger units.”

      During council’s deliberation about new incentives for developers of three-bedroom rentals, Jang claimed that the Rental 100 program appears to be turning the tide in favour of tenants looking for more affordable places.

      Jang also dismissed criticisms as a “deliberate undermining of a very successful program”.



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      May 28, 2015 at 6:43am

      Just what would Ms. Carr do to make these units more affordable? I would also ask this question of her NPA allies. Some proposed solutions would help many understand their position other than appearing as pure politicking. Don't build them? She knows they will be snapped up in this time of extreme shortage of most rental housing. What is her answer? Give us a try, Adrienne. What would you do, seriously?


      May 28, 2015 at 4:28pm

      The definition of "affordable" provided by Vision is absurd but a sop to their masters with the money. What is strange is how the Straight has largely ignored the rise of "poor doors" is proposed developments, but that would be risking a tug on the leash from Vision's propaganda team.

      Affordable For Whom?

      May 28, 2015 at 6:16pm

      Vision Vancouver's "affordable rental units" in the STIR project at 1051 Broughton Street are renting for $2700 for a small two bedroom and $3300 for a small ground level three bedroom townhouse. They are available furnished for an additional $400 per month on a month to month basis. Something tells me they are not doing much to assist with Vancouver's housing challenges. But I suspect they are great revenue for (friend of Vision Vancouver) Ian Gillespie who built them and that the City of Vancouver has no interest in documenting whether the building is fulfilling the promises made at the time of approval in terms of rents or tenancies.

      Follow-Up Please

      May 28, 2015 at 6:26pm

      Councillor Jang, your position would have more weight if you asked staff to follow-up on some of these developments to see if the rents "promised" by the developer in their application to Council actually end up being the rents charged. It's also getting a bit tired to hear the comment that renting is "more affordable" than home ownership. Really? Paying escalating rent for 50 years to a landlord is "more affordable" in the long term than building equity and paying off a mortgage? You need to tell the whole story here.

      And the insanity continues

      May 28, 2015 at 8:50pm

      We need to establish a standard for what affordable means if it is getting used in such a euphemistic fashion to propagandize for these greedy developers and their friends at City Hall like K Jang and GreRo.

      These developers are greedy, classless pigs and have way too much power and clout. We don't need more luxury rentals, we need practical housing for local residents that is truly affordable.

      R Louie's argument that simply building more units, whatever the proposed cost, would lead to a decrease in rent is what GreRo has been saying since 2008 but it has not happened and does not hold up to logical scrutiny: people simply pay more in rent or the units are empty. Because you actually need policy, which is what city council is completely lazy about and yet hired to do. The city officials, after all, have control over land. GreRo keeps telling us we have to badger the provincial and federal governments, which is something that he should actually actively be doing. But for the things that he has control over, he lacks shrewdness, foresight, and potency.

      This is really the only issue in the City. You see in the news side issues constantly, but really this is the only issue. But we have absolutely no leadership. So, I guess we leave it to the foreigners.

      And to all in upper managerial levels, we do not need a "conversation", so don't waste time stalling or on false flattery that you are "listening". We all know that letting in too many rich foreigners is the cause of this debacle, namely sky rocketing housing prices and rents in Vancouver. The people in positions of power, Gregor Robertson, Christy Clark, and Harper, have to do something so that the younger generation is not suffering by paying endlessly to landlords with all of its concomitant effects. And no, this is not something as silly and superficial as entitlement.


      Jun 1, 2015 at 7:19pm

      Vision Vancouver re-defined the term affordable to include (for the first time ever) rental, no matter how expensive the rental is. According to Councillor Kerry Jang, one determines whether or not the unit is affordable by looking to see whether or not it was rented out. If it gets rented out, then by definition it is affordable since someone is able to afford it. Before Vision Vancouver redefined the term "affordable," it actually had a very practical definition: the rent to be charged on the unit would never be more than 1/3 of the tenants' incomes. If a developer agreed to set aside 20% of a development's units for this type of affordability, then the developer would be given a density bonus. This made sense. With Vision Vancouver's definition, the developer still gets a bonus, but affordable units are gone. Gone that is, unless you use Vision Vancouver's meaningless definition of affordable.


      Jun 2, 2015 at 5:13pm

      The City and Gregor have got to stop giving taxpayer money to rich developers. Just change the laws.

      as one example:

      Berlin has become the first city in Germany in which rent-control legislation has come into force in a bid to put the breaks on some of the fastest rising rents in Europe. From Monday, landlords in the capital will be barred from increasing rents by more than 10% above the local average. Such controls were already in place for existing tenants but have now been extended to new contracts. .