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Vancouver's rental development program under review due to sky-high rents

Last Updated Mar 24, 2019 at 6:35 pm PDT

FILE: Modern apartment buildings in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada.

A bachelor rents for $1,400, Swanson says, and on the west side a three-bedroom goes for up to $3,700

Swanson argues developers shouldn't be able to skip out on development fees if their units aren't actually affordable

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A program that was supposed to create affordable rental housing in Vancouver could be put on hold by Vancouver city council, as prices for the units have skyrocketed.

With rental vacancy rates at only one per cent, city councillors are weighing in. They want more rules in place to ensure rental units really are affordable.

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“A bachelor rents for $1,400 and some, on the west side a three-bedroom goes up to $3,700 and that’s considered affordable,” says Councillor Jean Swanson, who questions why rents are so steep when the Rental 100 incentive program was intended to create more affordable units in the city.

The program was designed to encourage developments in which all of the units are rental housing.

She says not many in Vancouver would call these units affordable, but developers still get perks.

“If developers build housing like this, then they get a waiver of development cost levies, which can be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she says.

Swanson argues developers shouldn’t be able to skip out on development fees if their units aren’t actually affordable.

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It’s hard to call a $1,400 bachelor suites affordable, agrees Councillor Pete Fry.

“Clearly it’s not housing that’s affordable to the average Vancouverite,” he says. “Is it fair to call that affordable housing? Or should we actually just call it for what it is, which is a market subsidy?”

Fry says while the Rental 100 incentive has created thousands of units across Vancouver, costs have skyrocketed in recent years.

The program is being sent back for review by city staff, and Fry is hoping for more concrete action to offer tenants more affordable options.

“We can increase density, we can speed up permit application times,” he says.” And we now have the rental-only zoning tool – could be used to keep down land prices, which are one of the biggest factors in the affordability for building new construction.”

Swanson is also hoping for changes when it comes to rental only zoning, which she says can help lower the rates.