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.