Editorial: The citizen-led Vancouver City Planning Commission argues for immediate City Council response to our evaporating rental housing supply
According to recent Census figures, more than half of all Vancouverites rent their homes. Fifty two percent of our city is an extraordinary number – over a quarter million of us. Projections for population growth within city boundaries range from 15-30% within a generation. Today, however, there is no purpose-built rental accommodation being built in Vancouver.
To put it simply, the economics in favour of building rental housing do not exist. You will have a hard time persuading any investor to forgo profits simply to build a rental building instead of a condominium. The recent decline in demand for condo housing makes the mathematics of building rental apartments more appealing, but this is a temporary downturn in the economy.
Vancouver is and shall remain an expensive place to buy land and build.
Relying upon senior levels of government for financing or other solutions has proven to be a dead end. The Province has heavily invested in supportive housing for those below the poverty line, and the Feds so far have not found ways to reinstate tax breaks for those who invest in rental buildings.
It was tax incentives in the 1960s & 1970s that led to the last rental building boom, leaving Vancouver dotted with 40-year old apartments and nothing much newer than that.
Evolving out of this scenario is a perfect storm – a rental housing crisis where apartment-by-apartment families and individuals will lose their place in our city. Our supply of workers will dwindle, and local businesses will struggle with employment challenges.
Whether you are a renter or a home owner in Vancouver, you will be affected.
As an advisory body appointed by City Council, it is the mandate of Vancouver City Planning Commission to raise the alarm on long-term planning issues facing the city. The VCPC created a rental housing proposal that we consider to be an important first step in the urgent debate we all must have about this topic.
We are challenging Vancouver’s business-as-usual approach by inviting everyone running for City Council, as well as our community leaders to read our proposal and become a part of this debate.
The Planning Commission chose to release our proposal to the public, in order to begin this debate immediately.
First, we ask what are we as citizens prepared to give in return for secure, purpose-built rental properties flourishing in our city:
- Are we prepared to bargain with density to persuade developers to build rental accommodation?
- Should we consider shortening covenants on rental-to-strata conversions from 40 years to as low as 10 years?
- Are we prepared to add density around transportation nodes and our neighbourhood centres, and reduce building parking requirements?
- Would we be willing to go as far as to consider rental housing as a ‘public benefit’?
Will you join the debate?
Read the VCPC’s Market Rental Proposal