Late last week, Vancouver City Council approved two rental housing projects during the first public hearing of their term.
Both projects in the Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood are relatively insignificant in terms of their size, but the debates for each project and voting decision by each councillor provided a first real glimpse on how development projects may fair with this City Council over the coming four years.
Only one city councillor, COPE’s Jean Swanson, consistently voted against both rezonings, which offer a total of 79 new secured market rental homes combined. Both projects fall under the City’s Rental 100 policy, and the proposed rents are in line with the average market rents of newer buildings in the area.
City Council approved the redevelopment of 3435 East Hastings Street, located on a mid-block site just east of Hastings Park. It called for 45 secured market rental homes and 2,700 sq. ft. of retail space within a new six-storey building.
The current condition of 3435 East Hastings Street:
Future condition of 3435 East Hastings Street:
The unit mix is 13 studio units, 16 one-bedroom units, 10 two-bedroom units, and six three-bedroom units. Rents start at $1,496 for a studio units, $1,730 for a one-bedroom unit, $2,505 for a two-bedroom unit, and $3,365 for a three-bedroom unit.
The project, replacing a five-storey commercial building, will be built to a Passive House environmental standard.
The rezoning approval was granted in a 9-1 vote, with Swanson voting against and the Non-Partisan Association’s Lisa Dominato absent.
Another rezoning that received approval is located one block east at 3532 East Hastings Street – a mid-block property located next to an Esso gas station and currently occupied by a dilapidated, 1951-built, two-storey building with retail and eight low-cost apartment units.
The redevelopment would create a new six-storey building with 2,000 sq. ft. of commercial space and 34 secured market rental homes, with rents starting at $1,496 for studio units, $2,505 for two-bedroom units, and $3,365 for three-bedroom units. The unit mix has been set at 22 studio units, seven two-bedroom units, and five three-bedroom units.
Existing condition of 3532 East Hastings Street:
Future condition of 3532 East Hastings Street:
City Council voted 7-2 in favour of this project, with Swanson and OneCity’s Christine Boyle opposed, Green Party’s Pete Fry abstained, and Dominato absent.
“This project is a really good example of why the private sector won’t build housing that is affordable for the people who need it,” said Swanson, explaining her opposition to 3532 East Hastings Street.
“This points to the fact that we desperately, desperately, desperately need more non-market housing… We desperately need a source of revenues from federal and provincial governments that haven’t been adequate since the ’70s when they were adequate. We need those kind of contributions to house people who need housing and keep people from becoming homeless.”
However, the Housing Vancouver strategy launched by the previous City Council of constructing 72,000 new homes over 10 years is already multifaceted.
This includes 12,000 new units for social housing and non-profit cooperative housing, and 6,800 new units for households earning less than $30,000. These units, largely funded by the federal and provincial governments, are intended to help the city’s most vulnerable populations.
Another 20,000 new units have been marked as purpose-built secured market rental housing. With the recent approval of both East Hastings projects, the number of rental units approved since the 10-year target was set in 2017 has reached about 1,900 units.
The Rental 100 policy is a significant driver of reaching this target by providing incentives to developers to build projects with residential units that are 100% rental. Such a policy that encourages the development of secured market rental housing is intended to benefit working-class, middle-income earners.
A surge in new market rental homes is necessary to create a dent in the city’s extremely low vacancy rates, which are hovering at 0.9% city-wide and 0.4% for the Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood.
At the start of City Council’s first public hearing, Mayor Kennedy Stewart lightheartedly quipped: “Only 1,000 applications left to evaluate in our term.”