Vancouver’s “flawed” definition of social housing haunts city hall plan to discard public hearings on projects

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      Vision Vancouver ruled the city for a decade from 2008 to 2018.

      The developer-friendly party left behind several legacies.

      One of these is a new definition of social housing.

      Social housing used to mean 100 percent affordable housing.

      With Vision Vancouver, entire developments came to be known as social housing even though only 30 percent of the units are affordable housing.

      It does not matter that 70 percent of the units are rented at market units.

      Vision Vancouver is gone, a new council has taken over, but Vision’s definition of social housing remains.

      This evening (April 20), city council will reconvene for the resumption of public hearing on a proposed move to shelve rezoning as a requirement for new social housing projects.

      Doing away with the rezoning process means, among others, dispensing with the prerequisite of a public hearing.

      In short, it will be easier to get new social housing developments done.

      Who doesn’t want social housing?

      Well, based on a number of correspondence received by city hall, it depends on whether or not everything is really social housing.

      The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods opposes city staff recommendation to allow outright six–storey social housing projects without public hearing.

      As CVN noted, the city defines social housing as  “only requiring 30% of the units to be subsidized, while 70% can be market priced, but all is counted as 100% social housing”.

      “This could lead to these mostly market rental projects putting increased development pressure on older affordable rental buildings, many of which have lower rents than the new ‘social housing’ that would replace it,” the coalition wrote.

      CVN added: “This will lead to displacement, gentrification and demolition of character buildings.”

      In another letter, Vik Khanna suggests that council should “help avoid citizens feel that there may be a bait and switch taking place when it comes to the definition of ‘social housing’.”

      “Is it true that it means that an entire project will be designated as ‘social housing’ if 30% of it truly is social housing?” Khanna asked.

      Veronica Yakoleff wrote separately that the “housing needs of those with lower-to-moderate incomes must be addressed”.

      “Replacement of the current 100% affordable rental units by 30% ‘social’ housing and market rentals is not a good equation for Vancouver residents who need affordable housing,” Yakoleff stated.

      Stephen Bohus wrote that he is a renter who lives in the areas where rezoning will not be required for new social housing projects.

      “The City's definition of 'social housing' is flawed and it is not 100% shelter rate housing,” Bohus said.

      The council for Strata BCS 3183, a condo development, recalled in a letter that Green councillor Pete Fry on May 26, 2020 brought a motion to “define social housing consistently and transparently in the City of Vancouver”.

      “We understand that this motion passed, but a new, consistent, and transparent definition of ‘social housing’ has yet to be adopted by City Council,” the strata council wrote.

      The Upper Kitsilano Residents Association stated in a letter that like another city program, which deals with supposedly affordable rentals, the city may be “giving away too many taxpayer dollars to developers for too little  in return”.

      Social housing projects are exempted from paying development cost levies to the city.

      “We question why staff  did not propose making the changes only to buildings that are 100% social housing at shelter rates?” the association asked.

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