City of Vancouver to consider allowing 12-storey social housing in select areas

May 12 2021, 2:55 pm

There is a new motion up for debate next week on potentially allowing social housing buildings up to 12 storeys in Vancouver’s multi-family residential areas.

The motion by OneCity councillor Christine Boyle calls for changes in RM-3A, RM-4, and RM-4N zoning districts that would allow for such developments, where 100% of the residential floor area — accompanied by a density increase — is developed for social housing, with the possible inclusion of a childcare facility.

These zoning districts are largely located in the Kitsilano, Fairview, Mount Pleasant, Grandview-Woodland, and Marpole neighbourhoods.

Boyle’s motion would send this upsized social housing form to a public hearing. If approved, it would build on city council’s unanimous approval last month of a policy allowing social housing developments of up to six storeys in the same three zoning district types.

As well, the motion directs city staff to report back to city council with recommendations on allowing additional height and density for social housing in other zoning residential zoning districts, including single-family neighbourhoods and mixed commercial-residential areas.

The motion intends on removing the rezoning application and public hearing process for such developments. Proponents of such projects can go straight to a development permit application.

vancouver non-market housing map

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

Apart from the benefit of more social housing, this would allow proponents to skip the rezoning process, and go straight to the development permit application process, which would reduce costs of between $400,000 and $800,000 for each proposal and shave off a year or longer from the municipal government’s review process.

“City staff analysis has demonstrated that half of recent social housing developments have required rezoning through a public hearing process, compared to less than a third of market condominium development,” reads the motion.

“Single detached homes do not require a public hearing, even when a new detached home is significantly larger and more expensive than the one it is replacing. The added time and cost of requiring a public hearing impacts what type of housing gets built, and it is currently not aligned with what type of housing is most needed.”

She also notes that some senior government funding programs require approved zoning for eligibility.

The current process “results in rents that are higher at occupancy and/or means that limited capital subsidies from senior levels of government get expended more quickly, meaning less housing overall,” continues the motion.

“Reducing the cost, time and risk required to build non-profit and co-op housing will result in savings for residents and deeper affordability in the new housing created.”

2086-2098 West 7th Avenue 2091 West 8th Avenue Vancouver

Artistic rendering of the proposed 12-storey homeless supportive housing project at 2086-2098 West 7th Avenue and 2091 West 8th Avenue, next to SkyTrain’s future Arbutus Station. (BC Housing)

Based on the city’s recently released updated Housing Vancouver statistics, the municipal government approved 1,326 units of social housing in 2020, achieving 111% of its annual target of 1,200 units.

Over the 10-year span of the entire Housing Vancouver strategy through 2027, the city is aiming to approve 12,000 units of social housing. It is currently on target to reach that goal, with 5,784 units approved, representing 46% of the 10-year goal.

Within Vancouver, there are 526 non-profit and government-owned housing properties serving 26,000 households. About 107 of these properties, 20% of the locations, are in the RM-3A, RM-4, and RM-4N zoning districts being considered for change.

BC Housing is proposing to build a 12-storey supportive housing building next to SkyTrain’s future Arbutus Station. If approved, there would be 140 units of supportive housing for individuals experiencing homelessness, with construction starting in 2022 for a completion in 2024.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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