There is no question the housing affordability crisis is the single largest issue in Vancouver’s municipal election, and the varying policies each of the five major candidates hold will greatly determine their electoral outcome on October 20.
All of the candidates believe there needs to be more market and social housing, but what separates them apart is the “right type” of housing, the volume required, and the measures for implementation.
There is consensus that City Hall’s permitting process resulting in unnecessary delays and costs is deeply flawed and requires reform.
Several candidates are proposing to create new policies and taxes that discourage speculation and other poor behaviour.
Two candidates are vowing to create conditions that will allow tens of thousands of new homes to be built, one candidate is relying heavily on building new co-ops, and another candidate sees micro units as the key housing type for Millennial home ownership.
And one candidate does not believe the housing crisis is a supply-oriented problem.
Here is a rundown of the housing plans and strategies of the five major mayoral candidates running in the 2018 Vancouver civic election (be sure to also vote for the candidate with the best housing plan in our poll below):
Hector Bremner (YES Vancouver)
The candidate on housing:
Hector Bremner’s campaign under the YES Vancouver banner is one of the election’s biggest proponents of implementing policies that greatly increase housing supply over a highly expedited timeline in order to fix the demand shortage that has led to the city’s housing affordability crisis.
The party has set ambitious new-build housing targets, which will be achieved by the creation of new flexible zoning across the city. Neighbourhoods that are traditionally dominated by single-family properties would see more four-storey apartment buildings, with greater density focused around public transit infrastructure.
A surge in new-build housing would also be key for the party’s three-year “Rental Market Correction Plan” of increasing the rental vacancy rate to 3% over the short-term and 5% over the longer term. Currently, the vacancy rate is below 1%.
The plan also emphasizes on economic and community functions rather than physical form.
5 things you should know about YES Vancouver’s housing plan:
Adapt market and non-market oriented policies that will approve 50,000 to 70,000 purpose-built rental units over three years, with 12,000 homes in the first year, eventually rising to 20,000 homes per year.
Construct 15,000 units of non-market, not-for-profit rental housing over the next 10 years by utilizing 99-year leases on City-owned land.
City-wide rezoning that will simplify zoning bylaws, effectively reducing the number of residential zones from over 50 to a “more manageable number.”
To discourage speculation and flipping, there will be a new Vancouver Speculation Tax of 50% on the capital gains on the sale of unimproved, non-owner occupied homes and pre-sale assignments within 24 months of purchase.
A complete overhaul of the permitting process; there will be a cap on wait times for multi-unit constructions; redundant steps will be removed; City Hall will no longer “play favourites” to certain developers; spot rezonings will be limited; and reforms will be made to Community Amenity Contributions to replace project-by-project negotiations with a new fixed rate system based on project size.
Ken Sim (Non-Partisan Association)
The candidate on housing:
Ken Sim and the Non-Partisan Association (NPA) have outlined a housing plan that revolves on gentle new density on the supply side.
Instead of a focus on stimulating thousands of new-build apartments, the NPA will enact a policy within the first 100 days of office that allows two secondary suites in detached homes, effectively allowing as many as 40,000 new units for renters.
The NPA says the scope of some of its opponents’ plans of building tens of thousands of new units per year is unattainable, as they do not believe the local economy has the construction capacity to build the proposed volumes. Furthermore, the party says these housing units will not provide immediate relief, given the time it takes to review the application process and the years-long timeline to construct new major developments.
The party believes it has a “more realistic” two-fold housing plan of addressing short-term and longer-term housing challenges.
5 things you should know about the NPA’s housing plan:
Allow two secondary suites in detached residential properties to create 40,000 new units for renters, which also has the double effect of allowing homeowners to pay their mortgage.
Remove municipal red tape; reduce municipal taxes, fees, and charges for laneway homes and new secondary suites that house long-term renters; eliminating City Hall’s “permitting logjam” to speed up construction and bring down the cost of units; and fast tracking low-income housing developed by BC Housing or not-for-profits.
Use City-owned lands to construct “attainable” rental housing, while maintaining the ownership of that land.
Create a City-wide development plan that formulates unique plans for each neighbourhood through “real consultation” and focusing density around underutilized areas near public transit infrastructure.
Reform the Community Amenity Contributions (CAC) process so that a “consistent and transparent” criteria is created to determine a project’s CACs. As well, the practice of directing CACs towards the municipal government’s general revenues will end, with CAC revenues going towards improved community facilities and public spaces.
Kennedy Stewart (independent)
The candidate on housing:
Independent mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart, who has the endorsement of the OneCity Vancouver party, has the most ambitious new-build housing plans of all the major candidates in terms of the total number of new units created.
Stewart has a major emphasis on purpose-built rental and non-profit housing. He wants to build 85,000 new units in the city over the span of 10 years, with 50,000 units towards rentals and 25,000 units towards non-market rental.
Other than drastic supply policies, Stewart also aims to tackle the housing crisis by fighting speculation with new heightened tax regimes and increasing City Hall’s transparency with its housing decisions, including preventing companies from influencing policies.
5 things you should know about Kennedy Stewart’s housing plan:
Create 85,000 new units over a decade, including 35,000 new condominiums, coach houses, and townhouses, and 25,000 new purpose-built rental apartments and laneway homes. This will create more options for residents who want to downsize.
Triple the Empty Homes Tax from 1% to 3% of the property’s assessed taxable value.
New municipal rental-only zoning powers recently granted by the provincial government will be enacted to build secure rental housing developments and renovations.
Remove municipal red tape; more clerical staff and a reorganization of City departments to reduce unnecessary delays and confusion in the permitting process and eliminate conflicting requirements; expedite purpose-built rental developments with a new single-point of contact department that handles such developments; expedite triplexes and fourplexes on standard lots and removing barriers to convert large homes into multi-family residences.
Reform Community Amenity Contributions from developers to focus on affordable homes, childcare, and affordable spaces for small businesses, non-profits, and the creative sector.
Shauna Sylvester (independent)
The candidate on housing:
Shauna Sylvester’s housing plan is the only housing plan amongst all the major candidates that greatly focuses on new co-op housing, which currently accounts for just 2% of Vancouver’s housing stock.
The independent candidate wants to make Vancouver the “North American capital of co-ops and co-housing.”
New housing authorities, modelled after Whistler’s worker-focused housing authority, that target certain groups of residents and workers will be created to supplement the work already done by the City’s existing housing authority.
There is also a plan to extend purpose-built rental and affordable housing to Vancouver’s single-family neighbourhoods.
5 things you should know about Shauna Sylvester’s housing plan:
Turn Vancouver into North America’s capital of co-ops and co-housing, with immediate lease renewals on all existing co-ops and provide City-owned land for new co-op development.
Utilize the City of Vancouver’s lands and sites held in the Property Endowment Fundto deliver new housing, with funds from the $2-billion Affordable Housing Endowment Fund directed to the community housing sector to construct affordable purpose-built rentals.
Remove municipal red tape for affordable housing; fast-track applications for “community-scale homes with community benefits” such as purpose-built rentals, and create simpler, more predictable zoning rules and a clear and transparent approval process.
Encourage owners of single-family lots to create more affordable and “human-scaled” housing or to create a larger pool of income to support more affordable housing. Applications for purpose-built rental housing or other affordable housing will have their applications fast-tracked, and owners will not be charged for extra density or height. However, owners who pursue market developments and additional density will be required to pay a Community Amenity Contribution that will help fund the City’s affordable housing program.
Complete more community plans across Vancouver, as currently just 25% of the city’s neighbourhoods have a community plan, which means they are experiencing a “disproportionate amount” of growth.
Wai Young (Coalition Vancouver)
The candidate on housing:
Citing various statistics on the number of unoccupied residences in Vancouver, Wai Young with the Coalition Vancouver party is the only major candidate who does not believe a supply shortage is a factor in fuelling the housing affordability crisis.
Coalition Vancouver wants to build the “right housing,” specifically purpose-built new rental housing, co-op housing, and entry-level housing – providing attainable home ownership for younger generations by building smaller, less-costly units.
Her party has made it clear they are against much of the densification that has occurred in the city over the past decade, and they have promised to cancel the 10-year “Making Room” densification plan.
There is an emphasis on “gentle density” to preserve the character and livability of neighbourhoods.
5 things you should know about Coalition Vancouver’s housing plan:
Create a new City-wide plan that allows gentle densification – such as one additional rental unit per detached home or one laneway home – and allows neighbourhood committees to determine which pre-World War II heritage homes must be preserved. Greater densification will be centred around major transit infrastructure.
Create new purpose-built rental and co-op housing.
Create “Millennial Plus” owner-occupied condominium units in and around the city centre and transit hubs. These Millennium Plus homes are 300-sq-ft, efficiently-designed micro units that will cost $300,000, allowing young professionals earning $40,000 per year to afford their first home in the city through mortgages.
Remove municipal red tape; the development application process will be streamlined to reduce permit wait times.
Build affordable housing on City-owned land. Such properties will be retained for amenities, facilities, parks, and future needs, instead of selling properties to developers for the purpose of building upscale condos. Only affordable housing will be allowed on City-owned land.
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National Features Editor at Daily Hive, the evolution of Vancity Buzz. He covers local architecture, urban issues, politics, business, retail, economic development, transportation and infrastructure, and the travel industry. Kenneth is also a Co-Founder of New Year's Eve Vancouver. Connect with him at kenneth[at]dailyhive.com