City of Vancouver to amend STIR and Rental 100 bylaws after legal fight

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      The City of Vancouver is making some changes in rules regarding incentives for developers of market rental homes.

      The move comes after a community group filed a legal challenge this September against its now-expired Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing and the program’s successor, Rental 100: Secured Market Rental Housing Policy.

      As a member of the group that hauled the city to court, the West End Neighbours Residents Society’s Virginia Richards is quite pleased.

      “It does show you can fight city hall,” Richards told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      But Richards also recognizes that the fight isn’t over.

      Although the city has promised to amend the STIR and Rental 100 bylaws, there is no guarantee that revisions will address WEN’s objections.

      According to Coun. Geoff Meggs, a member of the ruling Vision Vancouver caucus, these will involve only “some administrative changes”.

      Meggs explained that these will “clarify the decision-making process” around waiving development-cost levies. And that’s about it, he declared.

      Development-cost levies are fees paid by developers. These are an important source of revenue for the city. The money is used to fund improvements and amenities in the city like parks, child-care facilities, and water and drainage systems. Under STIR and Rental 100, builders are exempt from these fees.

      “I don’t anticipate significant changes,” Meggs told the Straight in a phone interview on November 15. “I think that the program is delivering what we hoped, which is new rental housing. It’s going to help produce more housing options for renters.”

      WEN is being represented before the B.C. Supreme Court by Baker & Baker, a legal firm that specializes in municipal and administrative law. It’s also the law office of Jonathan Baker, a Vancouver councillor with the Non-Partisan Association during the 1990s.

      After his association with newly revived civic electoral organization TEAM, or The Electors Action Movement, Baker rejoined the NPA this month.

      The Vancouver Charter allows council to waive development-cost levies on what the city’s governing statute refers to as “for-profit affordable rental housing”.

      In a November 8, 2013, letter to Richards, Baker & Baker recapped that WEN’s petition argues that the city didn’t define what “for-profit affordable rental housing” means. It also challenged council’s decision to delegate to the city’s general manager its authority to establish what development projects are eligible for exemptions from the levies.

      “We also do not accept the City’s argument that new rental housing at market rates constitutes ‘affordable rental housing’ within the meaning of…the Vancouver Charter,” the letter from lawyer Nathalie Baker stated.

      It also quoted an email from city lawyer Ian Dixon stating: “ ‘I confirm that we have agreed that once Council passes an amended Bylaw you will either abandon the Petition, if the amendments resolve your client’s concerns, or adjourn the December dates and re-set the hearing, with amended pleadings, if the amendments do not satisfy your client’s concerns.

      “The City has also agreed not to process any applications under the existing Bylaws,” Dixon continues. “I will seek instructions on whether we are prepared to agree to not process any applications under the amended DCL Waiver Bylaws until the hearing of your Petition if you decide to challenge the amended Bylaws. I can advise that we intend to have the new Bylaws ready for Council’s consideration at the December 3 Council Meeting.”

      Meggs said in the interview that he hasn’t yet seen what changes staff will propose for the STIR and Rental 100 programs.

      “But I don’t think that the amendments are very far-reaching,” Meggs said.

      If there are delays in the processing of development projects under STIR and Rental 100, Meggs said these will be of “short duration”.

      Richards and her WEN colleagues are waiting to see what changes will be approved by council. She pledges one thing: “If we don’t like them or we don’t approve them as a group, then we’ll continue on with our court action.”

      Comments

      7 Comments

      Taxpayer

      Nov 20, 2013 at 8:12am

      Why are citizen groups having to spend money on court challenges to get the City of Vancouver to do the right thing? These issues were raised with the City years ago, and they were dismissed and ignored. Mr. Meggs, the changes will make the bylaws legal - that's pretty "far-reaching" in many people's books.

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      collarbone o'hare

      Nov 20, 2013 at 11:24am

      Wonder who's financing WEN? Is it the real estate industry? After all, there's no commission on selling rental apartments. Just asking.

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      collarbone o'hare

      Nov 20, 2013 at 1:56pm

      Could Ms. Richards please explain how rental housing - any type - can be built in the West End given the high cost of land - without some sort of incentive like the waiving of DCL's? What if the City of Vancouver instead of waiving DCL's and parking relaxations, were to give a direct subsidy to all the people who would be moving into these STIR buildings when completed to make them more affordable. Would this be acceptable to WEN or the more-than-mischevious Mr. Baker?
      Can't you find some worth-while pro bono work, Jonathan, with the needy?
      I won't get an anwer to this. Just the usual NIMBY drivel.

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      jenables

      Nov 20, 2013 at 4:21pm

      Ooh, collarbone o stalwart got right on this. ^^^ example of a paid or politically motivated attempt to discredit a community group, complete with the word NIMBY. community groups have valid concerns; you should be listening.

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      Fact Check

      Nov 20, 2013 at 8:42pm

      Aquilini just got approved for hundreds of units of rental housing at BC Place with no (illegal) DCL waiver.
      The incentives offered to developers under STIR and Rental 100 need to include some balance. Want 500% of the permitted density? Then maybe you should pay DCL's. Building at only slightly higher than the existing permitted density? Maybe a DCL waiver is appropriate. But in any case, the City should be processing DCL waivers legally. Not making it up as they go.

      West Ender

      Nov 20, 2013 at 9:50pm

      Ironic to use the word NINBY on people from the West End where the community is already so dense that no one has "back yards."

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      collarbone o'hare

      Nov 22, 2013 at 4:48pm

      No back yards when you moved in, WE. Why didn't you complain then? LOL LOL

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