City of Vancouver considering expediting non-profit housing by eliminating rezoning step

Jan 21 2021, 11:19 am

As a measure to expedite the implementation of new non-profit housing for low- and moderate-income renters, the City of Vancouver is considering a new policy that abolishes the need for the added step of a rezoning application for such developments in select areas of the city.

Under such a policy, rezoning applications would not be required for non-profit housing in the low-rise apartment areas — zoning districts RM-3A, RM-4, and RM-4N.

It would allow new non-profit social and co-housing up to six storeys in large areas of Kitsilano, Fairview, and Mount Pleasant, as well as the western and northern areas of Grandview-Woodland, and Marpole south of 70th Avenue. Currently, these areas contain three-storey, multi-family buildings.

rm4 non-profit housing rezoning policy map vancouver

Map of RM-3A, RM-4, and RM-4N zoning districts, outlined in purple and yellow. (City of Vancouver)

Instead, applicants in these locations can skip the rezoning application and city council public hearing steps, and go straight to the development permit application. By removing the rezoning requirement, city staff estimate it will shave off up to two years from the municipal application process.

It is anticipated this will help address the shortage for below-market housing, allowing non-profit societies and co-ops to renew existing buildings and expand over time. The direction towards six-storey wood frame construction is the highest possible form without concrete construction, and it is financially feasible on existing non-profit owned sites with funding from senior governments.

City staff are anticipated to provide a final report on the proposal to city council for referral to public hearing early this year.

Over the past 10 years, RM-4 district areas saw very few new non-profit housing developments. There were 50 market strata projects in these areas, but only 12 rental housing projects and three social housing and supportive housing projects.

rm4 3a non profit housing social housing vancouver

Map showing existing non-profit housing in RM-4 and 3-A district areas in Vancouver. (City of Vancouver)

The provincial and federal governments have indicated to the municipal government that additional height and density is needed for new non-profit housing to be financially feasible, and the long city process to rezone for higher density can add years to the process, leading to “serious delays” in funding new housing.

Based on a city survey last fall, 88% of respondents agreed that there is a need for more non-profit housing, 81% agreed that the city should encourage non-profit housing through faster application processes, reduced fees, and greater building height and density allowances, and 77% agreed with the proposed removal of rezoning requirements for select areas.

vancouver non-profit co-op housing map locations

Map showing existing non-profit and co-op housing in Vancouver. (City of Vancouver)

As of the end of the third quarter of 2020, the city was behind its social housing targets under the 10-year Housing Vancouver plan between 2018 and 2027. It approved 771 of the annual target of 1,200 social housing units (64% of annual goal) over the first three quarters of last year.

Moreover, between 2018 and September 2020, it has approved 5,229 of the goal of 12,000 social housing units over the span of a decade (44% of 10-year goal achieved).

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