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City set to consider more incentives to build rental housing in Vancouver

Last Updated Nov 22, 2019 at 11:14 am PDT

FILE - New condo buildings are shown under construction in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Summary

The City of Vancouver has a goal of adding 20,000 units of rental housing by 2027

A new report has 10 recommendations to further incentivize developers to build rental units instead of condos

In the last decade the city has added about 8,700 purpose-build rentals

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Changes to the city’s rental incentive programs need to be adopted if Vancouver wants to meet its goal of adding 20,000 units of rental housing by 2027, according to a new report.

Landlord BC CEO David Hutniak describes the recommendations set out in the 240-page report as a crucial step forward.

“It’s a combination of maintaining what we have, ensuring that it’s not undermined, and looking for a few spots where we might be able to build rental where we’re currently not allowed to build rental,” he explains. “I don’t think anyone would say this represents some big sea change in rental incentives, but it’s important work on really important programming and policy that we need if we hope to see rental housing continuing to get built.”

The report says the incentives to build rental housing that have been in place for the last 10 years have yielded almost 9,000 new units.

But vacancy rates are persistently low, the average monthly rent continues to spike, and existing rental stock is limited and aging.

“Although the City’s rental incentive programs have proven effective at encouraging the development of new rental instead of more expensive strata condominiums, rental production continues to fall short of need,” the report says. “The recommendations in this report are critical to ensure that City rental incentives continue to support new purpose-built rental development to ease the shortage of rental in the
city.”

RELATED: Commercial realtor says proposed incentives long overdue to build more market rental housing in Vancouver

Several of the recommendations relate to zoning, to changing what is allowed to be built where.

One is to allow for more apartment buildings to be built in single family zones.

“From a long term perspective, if we don’t start putting some four or five storey apartment buildings in single family neighbourhoods where the land mass exists, then our housing crisis and rental housing crisis –in particular– is just going to get worse and worse. It’s not going to get better,” Hutniak says.

The report also recommends increasing density around current and future transit hubs.

“To miss those opportunities would be unconscionable. We are investing billions in transit and we need more housing around transit hubs, in particular purpose built rental. Anything they can do to encourage that, to encourage the development community to build that sort of housing around transit hubs is a good strategy,” Hutniak says.

The recommendation he thinks may be met with most resistance is making more for-profit rental projects eligible for a waiver of Development Cost Levies.

Hutniak says the conditions imposed on developers in order to be eligible for a waiver were often “onerous” and he supports relaxing them.

“Any criticism of the DCL waivers is, I think, unfounded. Look at the success that we’ve had.”

According to Hutniak, waiving the fee directly contributed to 2,700 new rental units getting built in the last decade.

The report “Rental Incentives Review Phase II Report Back” will be delivered to council on Nov. 26.

Editor’s Note: NEWS 1130 has updated this article for clarity.