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Affordable housing the latest project to get a SWAT team

February 12th, 2009 · 5 Comments

Remember the Vision Vancouver promise to create an affordable housing boom? Here comes the task force to accomplish same, as you can see in this motion coming up next week from councillors Geoff Meggs and Raymond Louie here.

It’ll be interesting to see what kinds of solutions they can come up with, given how dramatically the development industry has changed. When VV first touted this during the election campaign, the thinking was that the industry could be persuaded to incorporate some lower-cost rental or market apartments into their developments by giving them a little extra space to sell for their wildly profitable higher-end stuff.

Clearly that business model isn’t too operational these days. So now the trick is to figure out what the city could do that would persuade developers (and their lenders) to build low-cost units without the benefit of the luxury market as a piggy bank.

I hear the mayor is going to be giving the keynote speech to the Urban Development Institute next month. Wait to hear what he says then.

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  • eleanor

    This will be interesting – two intersecting trajectories: 1. Council’s coming request for a major report from staff on affordable housing; and 2. Council’s recent moves towards a hiring freeze. This could be nerve wracking for the Community Services Group, given their recently iced hiring and interview process to fill key senior staff vacancies, together with the imminent retirement of their affordable housing guru.

  • Joe just Joe

    I’m more worried that the council will attempt to fix the “housing problem” with the recommendation from th city planning advisory council. They are recommending a new zoning called NC-1 withing 500m of all skytrain stations and transit hubs. This new zoning would work as follows. It would give C-2 zoning to everything in that area which is an FSR of 2.5 (in laymen terms that means a 5000sqft lot could have 12500sqft of development). Nothing abnormal so far. The kicker is if the developer agrees to sign a 10yr rental provision they would be bonused an extra 1.5FSR. So the developer could now build 4.0FSR (ie 20,000sqft on a 5,000sqft lot) The only conditions would be that that extra 1.5FSR must be rental for 10yrs, the other 2.5FSR could still be market if the developer choses. While this sounds like a solution the truth is it isn’t. That 1.5FSR will certianly help short term but it won’t do anything once the provision expires in 10yrs. The developer will sell it off as it’ll be a valuable commodity right next to transit. While I’m all for upzoning the areas around transit hubs I beleive city council the affordable housing crisis using this as a scapegoat to pass this idea. I suspect the truth would be to please the developers that have been very friendly to both coucil parties.

  • Joe just joe raises an interesting point. Perhaps some housing researchers or planning students with some time on their hands can check with CMHC and other sources to assess just how many Limited Dividend apartments and Multiple Unit Residential Buildings (MURBS) (both government initiated rental housing programs which required units to be rented for a predetermined time frame) remained as rental housing after the ‘expiry date’. One might start by looking at the South Shore of False Creek where there are both LD and MURB units.

    My suspicion is that not all units do convert to ownership units, (even thought they can). But it would be worthwhile research prior to final consideration of the Planning Commission proposals.

    Now as for zoning for a specific tenure, I always remember sitting in Committee Room 1 back in the 80’s when Alderman George Puil and others were considering zoning for rental housing…at one point, a fellow in the audience turned around to a group of us and said, in a scary voice…
    “Oh my God, I live in THE RENTAL ZONE!

  • CJ

    In what possible way is “affordable housing” a priority? We’ve just had an unprecedented frenzy of condo building that is still going on, with another 20,000 units still to come onto the market this year and next year. The prices of these things are now crashing as fast as it is possible for real estate to crash. Take a look at the incredible number of rentals offered on Craigslist right now. Of all the problems begging for money from our suddenly revenue-starved governments, “affordable housing” mst surely be near the bottom.