City of Vancouver's housing strategy revisited

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      Almost four years ago, Vancouver adopted an ambitious 10-year strategy on housing.

      Promising “a home for everyone”, the city’s plan addressed the entire housing continuum, from shelters to social housing, rentals, and affordable homeownership.

      Measures of success included enabling the creation of 20,000 “market ownership units”. A staff report considered by council when it approved the strategy had an initial three-year target of 6,675 “condos and affordable home ownership”.

      That was in July 2011, when council approved the 2012–2021 housing and homelessness strategy.

      Now Coun. Melissa De Genova wants to find out whatever happened to the goal of helping residents buy a home. “I haven’t seen any information or report as to how they would like to proceed on homeownership,” De Genova told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      An update provided by staff to council last month shows that the city is making considerable progress in enabling the construction of social housing and rental units. It stated: “Access to home ownership is also a challenge and over the next year, the City will be looking at a variety of options to potentially enable broader access to ownership for households who currently cannot access this due to high cost.”

      De Genova wonders whether the city can extend the same incentives it provides to builders of market rental homes—which include waiving development cost levies (DCLs)—to potential developers of affordable private homes. DCLs collected from developers help pay for growth-required facilities such as parks, child-care centres, and engineering infrastructure.

      “I believe that you shouldn’t be excluding anyone from the market,” De Genova said. “I believe that renters are important, but so are people who want to own homes.”

      She recognizes that taking action on affordable homeownership may be tough. For example, who should be eligible for such a benefit?

      “It’s going to take robust consultation, a process, a lot of hard work, and many roundtables with all of our partners to determine how best to go about that,” the first-term Non-Partisan Association councillor said. “But does that mean because it’s difficult we shouldn’t explore it?”

      Coun. Raymond Louie, from the ruling Vision Vancouver party, acknowledged that the city has focused so far on the other aspects of the strategy, rather than homeownership.

      “I think it’s an interesting proposition,” Louie told the Straight by phone. “But we need to tread very carefully because we can’t and don’t have the resources to make that happen on our own without jeopardizing the other areas that are very important to us, which is social housing, [and] affordable rental.”

      According to Louie, creating affordable private homes could involve more than just waiving DCLs, as in the case of the city’s program to encourage market rental development.



      D. Zaster

      Jun 3, 2015 at 10:58pm

      This article is a joke. What planet are these people on?

      Councillor De Genova needs to acknowledge that the housing policy she speaks of that was adopted by the city 4 years ago is irrelevant, now what housing prices have risen another 40%, and the market has taken on all the attributes of an unsustainable bubble. If the city's 10-year housing plan had any basis in reality in 2011, it certainly doesn't now.

      “I believe that you shouldn’t be excluding anyone from the market,” De Genova said. “I believe that renters are important, but so are people who want to own homes.” Well, Ms De Genova, a lot of people are being excluded from the market by ever-rising prices, and will continue to be for as long as interest rates stay low and there are no restraints placed on foreign speculation. As for rentals, there are thousands of empty condos and houses all over the city that their offshore owners don't even bother renting out. It shouldn't be hard to figure out that this reduces supply and increases rents. During the last census, 30% of the condos in Coal Harbour alone were found to be vacant. The answer to this problem is obvious: tax the non-resident owners and make it uneconomic to leave condos and houses empty. Obvious, no?

      Raymond Louie has zero credibility on housing issues. This is the guy designated by Vision to look into the affordability issue a couple of years back, who denied it was problem at all. Even Gregor Robertson backed away from his inanities. It's no secret that Louie's interests lie elsewhere - he is working hard behind the scenes to run for the Liberals in Vancouver East in the next federal election. The best he seems able to do is admit Vision has "no resources" and no policy for prospective homeowners facing the sellers market the party has helped create. How pathetic.


      Jun 4, 2015 at 7:51pm

      Gregor and Louie just puffing hot air as usual.


      Jun 5, 2015 at 8:26am

      More politicians who apparently live on a different planet than ours. Housing affordability means restricting foreign ownership. It really is that simple.