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Vancouver tests out what many hope will be a non-profit model for building low-cost housing

May 10th, 2013 · 7 Comments

After being stung by four years of criticism about its giveaways to developers to create rental, Vision Vancouver politicians (oops, of course, I should say, “staff”) have decided to test a new model for building rental apartments.

The city will give four pieces of land to a consortium of non-profit housing groups and the B.C. Co-op Housing Federation to develop 350 units that the groups promise will offer a substantial number of units at below-market rents — some way below and others a little below.

They’ll be able to do that by saving money on 1. land 2. marketing 3. developer profit. But the plan is also to cross-subsidize within the 350 units by renting out the ones likely to get the highest price (on a piece of property in the River District development that faces the river — a gorgeous site; I’ve seen it) at market rates, leasing out some commercial space at the site on Kingsway for going-market rates, and then using that money as well to lower the rents on other units.

If it works, the Vision council is definitely planning to expand the concept. Thom Armstrong, from the co-op federation, says non-profits would likely consider putting in land too if it the model proves to work.

I just did the preliminary story on this. I’m waiting to hear from critics of various stripes if they see problems with this. I know the NPA will be concerned about the city dedicating so many of its land assets to housing. (To this, Councillor Geoff Meggs has pointed out that this is a return to the model of the 1970s, used in south False Creek.)

The model also looks to me like what the current thinkers in COPE wanted to introduce as a housing solution. But I await commentary on the details.


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