Vancouver city council to hold public hearing on social housing project for public school teachers

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      A public hearing has been set on a social housing project for public school teachers in Vancouver.

      Based on its July 13 agenda, city council will hear an application to rezone 2929 Commercial Drive for a five-storey, mixed-use building.

      The property is owned by the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association and the Vancouver Secondary Teachers’ Association.

      At present, the site is home to a three-storey building, which serves as headquarters for VESTA and VSTA. There are also commercial tenants in the facility.

      The proposed development includes 27 social housing units for new teachers on the top three floors, VESTA and VSTA offices on the second floor, and a commercial unit and training space on ground level.

      The housing units will be owned and operated by the two teachers’ associations.

      “A membership survey conducted by VESTA/VSTA indicates that teachers are struggling with housing costs in Vancouver,” Yardley McNeill, assistant rezoning director with city hall, wrote in a report to council.

      “The teachers said that finding housing in Vancouver is a recruitment and retention issue, and many teachers are choosing to relocate outside of Vancouver for lower rents and wider housing availability,” McNeill continued.

      “If approved, the project would provide housing options for teachers and support teacher retention in Vancouver,” the city planner added.

      The project will include 21 one-bedroom units, and six two-bedroom units.

      VESTA and VSTA proposed this unit mix to “provide workforce housing to early-career teachers”, McNeill wrote.

      “To meet the minimum level of affordability required under the City’s definition of social housing, 30% of the units must be rented to households with incomes at or below BC Housing’s Housing Income Limits (HILs), at rental rates of no more than 30% of income,” McNeill also reported to council.

      Set annually by B.C. Housing, HILs reflect the minimum income needed to afford the equivalent rental unit in the private market.

      The amount varies from city to city.

      In Vancouver, the 2021 HILs for a one-bedroom unit is $55,000 per year.

      This means that if one were to apply the 30 percent affordability threshold for housing cost as a percentage of income, someone earning $55,000 should pay a monthly rent of about $1,387.

      “Under the minimum requirement, up to 70% of the social housing units could rent at rates determined by the building’s operator, typically around the low-end of market,” McNeill explained in the report.

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