Vancouver council to debate putting locals ahead of foreign buyers in lines for real-estate pre-sales

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      Tomorrow (October 17) the mayor will formally ask Vancouver city council to asks staff to figure out how to put “local” first when it comes to real-estate pre-buys.

      “Vancouver has the strongest economy of any city in Canada, yet the rental vacancy rate is below 1% and housing prices are out reach of the majority of residents,” reads a motion that’s scheduled to go to a vote.

      It asks city staff to “bring forward a policy framework for new development applications that gives residents who live and work in Metro Vancouver the first opportunity to purchase new pre-sale homes in Vancouver”.

      An October 5 media release from the mayor’s office defines “local” residents as “people who live and work in Metro Vancouver; whose permanent address and place of work is in the region, irrespective of citizenship”.

      The motion notes that council for the neighbouring District of West Vancouver recently voted in support of such a policy.

      "At a time when our economy is booming but residents are finding it difficult to access housing, we need to be looking at new tools to make sure that people who live and work in Vancouver are the priority when new housing is being built," Mayor Gregor Robertson said quoted in an October 16 media release. "We already target our rental housing built by the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency to local residents. Taking steps to make sure people who live and work here have the first opportunity to buy into new housing is a reasonable approach, given the City is looking to substantially increase new housing supply."

      The statement goes on to suggest the move might be more symbolic than it is an actual solution to the city’s housing crunch.

      “The development industry has stated that more than 90% of pre-sales for multi-unit buildings already go to local buyers,” Robertson continued. “However, we hear regularly from residents at public hearings that they often don't believe they'll get a fair opportunity to buy when the homes are ready for sale in the neighbourhood. We need to address this, and ensure there are mechanisms in place that we can point to make sure that people who live and work in Vancouver get the first chance to buy into new developments."

      The vacancy rate for the City of Vancouver has long remained below one percent.

      On October 6, the Straight reported that the average rental listing for a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver has hit $2,000 a month.

      According to Statistics Canada, in 2015, the median after-tax income for a one-person household in the City of Vancouver was $33,957, or $2,830 a month.

      On October 14, the mayor’s Vision Vancouver party placed fifth in a by-election that was convened to fill a vacant council seat. In a statement released to media, Robertson placed the loss in the context of Vancouver residents’ challenges finding affordable housing.

      “We knew this by-election would be difficult,” he said quoted there. “Our city faces real challenges. Vancouverites are frustrated—particularly around housing affordability—and they expect more from us. We’re working hard to deliver solutions, but tonight’s results show us there’s much more work to do. I heard that message loud and clear, and our party heard that message loud and clear.”

      Travis Lupick is a staff reporter and the author of Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City's Struggle with Addiction. You can follow him on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.