Burnaby's policies catalyzing over 6,700 new below-market rental homes

Dec 3 2021, 11:34 pm

Relatively recent policies intended to protect and add to rental housing supply in Burnaby appear to be working, based on the municipal government’s annual progress report released today.

Under the framework, a total of 10,358 rental homes of all types are underway in various stages — proposed/under review, approved, under construction, and completed.

The vast majority of the units are deemed affordable, with 7,881 below-market rental homes underway, including 6,710 units proposed, 315 units approved, 569 units under construction, and 287 units completed.

This includes 2,658 below-market rental homes spearheaded by non-profit entities and the City of Burnaby. The municipal government has had a direct hand by providing city-owned lands at a nominal cost and by allocating $52 million from its Community Benefit Bonus Affordable Housing Reserve (collected from private developers through rezoning) towards project costs.

The city has also been acting on its October 2019 plan to work with non-profit entities to develop five city-owned sites into social housing.

These city sites, collectively assessed for roughly $52 million, are expected to generate about 860 units, including 271 units at 5912-5988 Sunset Street by Vancouver Native Housing Society, 129 units at 6488 Byrnepark Drive by M’akola Housing Society, 134 units at 6857-6875 Royal Oak Avenue by Catalyst Community Developments, 207 units at 7510-7536 Kingsway by Catalyst Community Developments, and 118 units at 6365 Stride Avenue by Community Land Trust and Mosaic Homes.

Additionally, the municipal government is providing $17 million to assist non-profit entities with their plans to develop non-market rental housing at other sites not owned by the city.

Another 5,223 below-market rental homes fall under the city’s 2020-approved Rental Use Zoning Policy (RUZP).

RUZP’s mandate on new condominium developments requires the replacement of all existing rental units on a property, with previous tenants being provided the first right of refusal at affordable rents. For any project, there is a requirement to include a below-market rental housing component that is equivalent to at least 20% of the condominiums, regardless of whether they are replacement units or inclusionary, for a net gain in the city.

As for market rental homes, the city has 2,477 units underway, including 1,242 units proposed, 12 units approved, 816 units under construction, and 407 units completed.

All of the reported figures represent the tally compilations as of the end of September 2021.

“The latest Rental Housing Update report illustrates the dramatic effect that our housing policies have had on our rental market,” said Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley in a statement.

“During the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Housing, we committed to finding ways to make it easier for families, seniors and people with a low income to find stable housing. We have plenty more work to do, but it is clear that we are moving in the right direction.”

burnaby rental housing statistics september 2021

Statistics on new rental housing in Burnaby, as of the end of September 2021. (City of Burnaby)

Altogether, there are 115 projects across the city with a rental housing component in various stages of progress. But only a small number of the homes are built today, and many still need to be approved.

It will take years to approve and reach completion on most of this new rental housing supply for any effort to improve housing affordability in Metro Vancouver.

The rental housing unit figures continue to grow, as Burnaby is becoming one of the most sought-after jurisdictions by developers, with favourable community plans, city policies, and transit-oriented development sites next to SkyTrain.

However, some developers looking to build major 100% rental housing projects have identified challenges with the city’s policies, given that the municipal government stipulates the same level of below-market affordable rental housing and density bonus expectations as what a condominium project would require. The development industry recently raised this issue as condominiums carry a significantly higher financial return that can cover more public benefit costs than market rental housing. Builders have otherwise provided generally favourable input on RUZP.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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