8,800 new homes approved by City of Vancouver in 2021

Apr 28 2022, 11:57 pm

Over the fourth year of the City of Vancouver’s 10-year Housing Vancouver strategy in 2021, a total of about 8,800 new units of housing were approved.

This is the most annual approvals since the Housing Vancouver strategy was created by the previous Vancouver City Council in 2017, and the highest in at least a decade.

Based on the newly released tallies by city staff, a summary conducted each year, this is the second consecutive year that purpose-built rental housing and social/supportive housing combined accounted for over half of all housing approvals.

This includes 2,956 rental homes in 2021 — exceeding the annual target of 2,000 rental homes. For social/supportive housing, 1,334 units were approved — above the annual target of 1,200 units, marking the second-highest annual approvals for this segment since 2010.

With the inclusion of 2021’s totals, Housing Vancouver has reached 59% of its 10-year total for social/supportive housing (7,128 out of 12,000 units), and 43% for rental housing (8,521 out of 20,000 units).

Although developers and investors have shifted some of their focus to rental housing, the condominium segment of the targets remained strong, with 2021 seeing the city approve 3,779 condominium units — above the annual target of 3,000 units. So far, Housing Vancouver has reached 58% of its 10-year condominium targets (17,498 of 30,000 units).

But the city fell behind in approving the minor supplies of laneway homes and townhomes/coach homes in 2021.

The city approved 299 units of laneway homes in 2021 — below the annual target of 400 units. But so far in the 10-year total, it is ahead of targets, with 61% already achieved (2,349 out of 4,000 units).

Townhomes/coach home approvals reached 456 units in 2021 — under the annual target of 600 units, but above the average of the past 10 years. Now in the fourth year of the 10-year strategy, overall townhomes/coach home approvals to date are also falling behind, with 34% achieved (2,015 out of 6,000 units).

“Vancouver is experiencing a high demand for housing, fuelled by job recovery, higher migration to BC, and students returning to in-class learning,” said Theresa O’Donnell, the chief urban planner for the City of Vancouver, in a statement.

“Encouraging the development of new rental housing is critical to ensuring there are a variety of housing options to meet the diverse needs of people who live and work in Vancouver.”

The 10-year Housing Vancouver strategy aims to catalyze a combined total of 72,000 units of housing between 2018 and 2027.

But actual new housing construction completions to put a material dent in the housing affordability and supply crisis is an entirely different matter.

With that said, the initial years of approvals under Housing Vancouver now appear to be entering the market, reaching completion.

A total of 1,669 new units of social/supportive housing were added in 2021, including 1,208 units from construction, and 461 units acquired from governments buying aging hotels and other properties as a rapid pandemic-time measure to address homelessness. Another 689 units added last year were for the purpose-built rental housing stock.

Condominium completions — through their use as investment properties in the secondary rental housing market — are also a major source of rental housing, beyond secured purpose-built rentals.

According to the city, 50% of current residents and 75% of new households are now renting their homes.

In addition to the Housing Vancouver update, the municipal government recently completed its 2022 Housing Needs Report, which is a new requirement for all BC cities mandated by the provincial government — conducted at least every five years.

Over the next 10 years, it is estimated that 136,000 households will need housing that is suitable for their family size and income within the jurisdiction of the City of Vancouver.

This includes the unmet needs of existing residents in about 86,000 households, including 77,000 households living in unaffordable, unsuitable, or inadequate housing, about 2,000 people who are homeless, and about 7,000 people living in SRO situations. This means almost one-in-four existing households will be in a problematic housing situation, based on the total number of households in the city, about 305,000.

Municipal governments are increasingly being blamed for their part in exacerbating housing affordability and supply issues, with long rezoning and permitting review times, and casting uncertainty on proposals. Later this year, after the October civic election, the provincial government is anticipated to introduce legislation requiring cities to expedite housing and achieve targets.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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