Vancouver city staff are going to have to re-examine how many units of housing will be need to be built, post-COVID-19.
This came after nine members of council voted earlier this week for a motion stating that the city's population growth "has generally come through immigration as opposed to domestic migration".
But is that really true?
Last October, B.C. Stats reported that the provincial population reached 5,071,336.
There were 55,612 people who moved to B.C. from other provinces in 2018-19, compared to 43,151 new immigrants, according to Statistics Canada.
The previous year, there were 55,300 interprovincial migrants compared to 41,976 immigrants.
In 2016-17, there were only 35,397 immigrants to B.C. compared to 57,210 interprovincial migrants.
The year before that, interprovincial migration to B.C. was even higher—63,788—whereas there were 43,242 immigrants to the province.
These numbers show that more people from other provinces move to B.C. each year than the number of immigrants.
As a result, the motion has come under intense criticism over social media from advocates of greater density and more housing options.*
According to Metro Vancouver, Vancouver has accommodated the largest share of immigrants over the past 20 years. But that has dropped from a 36 percent to 30 percent share as more immigrants are moving to Surrey and other municipalities.
The same report estimated that Metro Vancouver's overall share of 11 percent of Canada's approximate total of 300,000 immigrants per year "is assumed to marginally decrease". That's because more of them are expected to settle elsewhere in B.C. and in other parts of Canada in the future.
Stewart and Boyle were noncommittal
One of the centrepieces of NPA councillor Colleen Hardwick's motion is to direct staff to confirm that 2017 Housing Vancouver Strategy targets are "aspirational...and not a strict requirement".
The strategy proposed adding 72,000 new homes in Vancouver between 2018 and 2027. This was intended to offer housing to the so-called "missing middle", who work in Vancouver but who can only afford to live in the suburbs.
"The Housing Vancouver targets indicate the amount of new housing required along a continuum of housing types, in order to maintain Vancouver’s income diversity," the 2017 report stated. "Of the 72,000 new homes projected as part of the new targets, nearly 50 per cent will serve households earning less than $80,000 per year, and 40 per cent will be family-size units."
Hardwick's motion also directs staff "to clarify whether the Vancouver Housing Strategy targets refer to net housing completions or gross housing completions".
Mayor Kennedy Stewart and OneCity councillor Christine Boyle abstained, whereas the Green and NPA caucuses, along with COPE's Jean Swanson and independent Rebecca Bligh, voted in favour of the motion.
Each municipal government must submit a regional context statement to the Metro Vancouver board explaining how it is helping to accommodate a growing regional population while preserving greenspace, responding to climate change, and developing complete communities.
Vancouver's 2013 regional context statement promises to have 309,000 dwelling units by 2021 and 336,000 dwelling units by 2031. The Metro Vancouver board accepted it on July 26, 2013.
By 2041 according to the regional context statement, Vancouver will have 362,000 dwelling units, but that could rise to 373,000 dwelling units under a "high regional growth scenario".
In 2019, the Metro Vancouver board went along with Vancouver's request for continued acceptance of its regional concept statement.
The city noted at the time that the regional context statement's official development plan was being revised following the implementation of Housing Vancouver action items.
The city also let the regional government know of several initiatives—including a citywide plan, an employment lands and economy review, and the Broadway Plan—that would transform the housing, employment and transportation landscape.
"The outcomes of these significant initiatives would likely necessitate an update to the City's Regional Context Statement on completion," a Metro Vancouver staff report stated. "As such, the City has indicated a preference to wait until the completion of the City-wide strategy in 2021 before initiating an update to its Regional Context Statement."
Hardwick's motion states that a projected historical rate of population growth would require 30,000 new dwelling units in Vancouver over the next decade.
The motion directs staff "to provide transparent data". This, according to the motion, will form the basis of "subsequent analysis, and then policy recalibration" of part of the citywide plan and the associate update regarding the Regional Growth Strategy.
"Demand for different housing types may shift as a result of the post-pandemic realities," it states. "In order to plan effectively, it will be necessary to obtain more detailed data regarding the pipeline of development that has been underway since the approval of the Vancouver Housing Strategy."
In the 2018 election campaign, the NPA's housing platform was largely based on adding secondary suites and retaining the single-family character of Vancouver neighbourhoods.
At the time, critics accused the party of wanting young people to live in basement suites rather than purpose-built rental projects on nearly three-quarters of the city land currently zoned for single-family houses.
Read the final motion with amendments
The City of Vancouver emailed the section below after the Straight asked for the final motion with amendments. (However, Harwick subsequently informed the Straight that there are only supposed to be six bullet points under part B, noting that Swanson's amendment was added to the existing points and should not be presented as their own bullet points. As a result, the Straight presented the motion in the manner that Hardwick feels is accurate.)
Recalibrating the Housing Vancouver Strategy post COVID-19
FINAL MOTION AS APPROVED
1. The City of Vancouver needs to make the right decisions going forward to create the housing we need in the period following the COVID-19 pandemic;
2. The Housing Vancouver Strategy (HVS) was passed by the previous City Council in 2017;
3. The Housing Vancouver Strategy’s goal is 72,000 new homes across Vancouver in the next 10 years (between 2018 and 2027);
4. Population growth has been consistent at approximately 1% per annum over the past 20 years according to Statistics Canada census data. Based on this historical trend, a similar growth rate for the coming decade would amount to a population increase of around 66,000. In the City of Vancouver, the average household size is 2.2 individuals per dwelling unit (or “home”);
5. The target of 72,000 new homes across Vancouver in the next 10 years multiplied by 2.2 would mean a population increase of 158,400 - more than twice the historical rate. A projected historical rate of population growth would imply instead a need for roughly 30,000 new housing units over the coming decade;
6. Population growth has generally come through immigration as opposed to domestic migration;
7. Demand for different housing types may shift as a result of the post-pandemic realities. In order to plan effectively, it will be necessary to obtain more detailed data regarding the pipeline of development that has been underway since the approval of the Housing Vancouver Strategy; and
8. A revised and more accurate understanding of demographic needs and demand will assist in properly planning for the post COVID-19 reality. Setting excessively high targets will pressure the City of Vancouver to grant significant amounts of density at a low price, in an attempt to induce housing construction approaching the HVS targets. This will cost the City of Vancouver potential revenue, and will mean that the City abandons its commitment to having growth pay for itself.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
A. THAT Council direct staff to provide transparent data to serve as the basis of subsequent analysis, and then policy recalibration as part of the Vancouver Plan process and the associated Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) update.
B. THAT Council direct staff to provide the following for the City of Vancouver as a whole and broken down by neighbourhood or district:
Annual historical data since 2010 to present for:
* rezoning and development permit applications for new housing development, listed by project, including data on the actual or estimated number and type of housing units, and the status of each project (approved; modified; rejected; in progress; construction started; occupancy permit);
* summary of census data for annual population and unit growth; estimated or actual (where available) on the number of units lost through rezoning or redevelopment and net changes in affordability;
Additional current data and information:
* list of rezoning and development projects, the project status with estimated timelines, proposed form of development, unit numbers and types of housing
* ballpark breakdown of household incomes required to afford each unit, as well as accessibility data for each project;
* estimated zoned capacity, broken down by each zone and by neighbourhood, numbers and types of units, with estimated total and annual build-out; existing data (where available) on the city’s secondary rental market (non-purpose-built rentals such as condos, secondary conversions or unauthorized suites) the number and type of rental units, monthly rent, and vacancy rate;
C. THAT Council direct staff to confirm that the Housing Vancouver targets are aspirational to achieve the right supply of housing and provide only a rough estimate for growth, and not a strict requirement - i.e. targets do not need to be met every year;
D. THAT Council direct staff to clarify whether the Vancouver Housing Strategy targets refer to net housing completions or gross housing completions; and
E. THAT Council direct staff to report back via memo with the requested data and information as listed above for Council consideration in July, 2020, and to provide a timeline for when the data will be posted through the Open Data Portal.
* The original story misstated what constituted "net immigration".
Statistics Canada has a data catalogue for 2018-19 showing movement in and out of Metro Vancouver. Here are the numbers:
Returning emigrants: 4,680
Net temporary emigrants: 3,964
Net nonpermanent residents: 19,718
Net International migrants: 45,669
Interprovincial in-migrants: 22,203
Interprovincial out-migrants: 22,006
Interprovincial net: 197
Intraprovincial in-migrants: 15,956
Intraprovincial out-migrants: 30,198
Intraprovincial net migration: -14,242
Total net migrants: 31,624