City of Vancouver admits it's falling behind in building rental housing

Nov 8 2019, 12:40 pm

The City of Vancouver knows there is much more to be done on the rental housing front, based on a new update this week on the progress it has made in catalyzing new secured market rental housing.

Over the first three quarters of 2019, it has approved 649 purpose-built secured market rental units, which is 32% of the annual target of 2,000 units. Many of these units, 64% in fact, relied on various city rental incentive programs, such as Rental 100 Secured Market Rental Housing Program and the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program.

Over a 10-year period spanning from 2018 to 2027, the city’s Housing Vancouver strategy establishes a target of creating 20,000 secured market rental units. To date, just 2,502 secured market rental units have been approved since the strategy came into force.

Four applications creating about 240 rental units and 61 MIRHPP units are scheduled to reach public hearing in December 2019.

The city indicates it is examining the effectiveness of its secured market rental incentive programs.

“This period saw fewer purpose-built rental projects coming forward for council approval than in previous years, and the city is not meeting it’s 10-year targets for new purpose-built rental housing overall,” reads a release.

Housing Vancouver November 2019

Housing Vancouver strategy update, November 2019. (City of Vancouver)

The strategy, calling for 72,000 units of new housing across a diversity of options, saw some successes with two of its smallest components.

With laneway housing, a total of 364 units have been approved this year to date, reaching 91% of the annual target of 400 units. Under the strategy so far, a total of 1,664 laneway homes have been approved, accounting for 42% of the 4,000-unit target.

New townhomes are also close to being on track with the strategy. There have been 876 units approved so far, which means 18% of the ultimate target of 5,000 townhouse units have been green-lit. The city has already exceeded its annual townhome approval target for 2019, with 601 units approved this year to date — a 120% achievement of the 500-unit annual target.

But the city is falling behind in two significant housing types that are intended to make the largest dent to the housing affordability and supply crisis.

Over 10 years, the city has a goal of approving 30,000 condominium units, with 9,182 units — 31% of the target — approved to date. It far exceeded its annual target in 2018, but so far this year, due to the housing slowdown, just 844 units have been approved, which means only 28% of the annual target of 3,000 units has been achieved.

The city has lost some steam in creating new social housing units, after achieving significant numbers in 2018.

This year to date, 529 social housing units have been approved, a figure that is well below the annual target of 1,200 units. Overall under the strategy, a total of 4,169 of the 12,000 units have been approved — a progress rate of 35%.

“There have also been limited social and supportive housing approvals compared to last year, which was the highest level of approvals in a decade. Continued inter-governmental partnerships will be needed to improve this trend,” reads the release.

Further on in the strategy’s timeline, the city expects to see additional social housing and secured market rental housing through the rezoning applications for the redevelopments of the old RCMP headquarters on the Heather Lands and TransLink’s old Oakridge Transit Centre.

This week, Squamish First Nation announced its plan to construct 6,000 new homes — mainly secured market rentals — within 11 towers on its reserve at the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge in Kitsilano. This single redevelopment could achieve as much as a quarter of the city’s goal of creating 20,000 units of secured market rental housing, with construction potentially beginning in early 2021 and reaching full completion within five years.

More social and co-operative housing developments are expected to be approved for city-owned properties, and the completion of the Broadway Plan next year is anticipated to identify new major opportunities for social, market, and below-market rental housing near SkyTrain Millennium Line’s Broadway Extension.

Additionally, the city has said that areas around SkyTrain Expo Line from Nanaimo Street to Boundary Road will be explored for new housing options. Aside from the area Joyce-Collingwood Station, the areas around Nanaimo Station and 29th Avenue Station are low density with predominantly single-family homes.