Why You Should Care About Birch (and other Moderate Income Rental Projects)

And What You Can Do About It Right Now 

Are you a renter? Are your children renters (or will they be soon)? Are other loved ones or friends you’d like to be able to stay in Vancouver renters? Great, this apartment building is for you! 

2538 Birch St Location & Rendering

TL;DR: This building will improve affordability in Vancouver, as well as access to jobs and public transit. To support, speak at the public hearing this Thursday, July 9th, and write in to publichearing@vancouver.ca. Don’t know what to say? Use our handy Letter Generator to get you started.

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Council Round Up - July 7th - July 9th

When the Vancouver City Council is in session, Abundant Housing Vancouver will be providing a breakdown of important public hearings, housing related motions and other housing business. 

Highlights:

 

2538 Birch Street

243 rental homes, with 53 moderate income rentals (20% of the floor area), located two blocks from the future Broadway & Granville Skytrain Station and a short walk to Vancouver General Hospital. This project adds needed rental and moderate income housing near a key employment center in the city.

This project is facing an organized opposition, your support is needed to get these needed moderate income rentals built. Please write in support or request to speak at the July 9th public hearing to tell council to approve affordable rental housing.

1111-1123 Kingsway

Part of the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program (MIRHPP), this project proposes to bring 131 rental homes to Kensington-Cedar Cottage area at the intersection of Kingsway and Glen Drive. 20% of homes (by floor area) will be permanently affordable to moderate income households.

Please write in support or request to speak to let council know you support affordable rental housing.

Missing Middle Pilot

A motion by Councilor Dominato to create a program for demonstration projects of ground oriented, missing middle type housing in the low density zones that cover most of the city.

Please support this motion by writing to council or requesting to speak in favour (deadline to register to speak is 1 hour before the start of the meeting).

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Broken and unrepresentative: The problem with public hearings

You have probably received a postcard from the City notifying you about a public hearing, or perhaps have read a news story about one. But chances are you have never been to one. And that is a problem. The process that shapes our city and decides where people can and can't live does not represent the people of Vancouver.

What is a public hearing? Every city in BC has a set of bylaws, known as zoning, controlling what can and cannot be built on every lot in the city. If you ever wondered why 75% of land in Vancouver has expensive detached houses, rather than more affordable apartments and condos, zoning is the answer. Under provincial law, every time a city wants to change zoning, called a rezoning, the city council has to hold a public hearing, for members of the public to have their say.

That may sound good in theory, but in practice it is an ineffective, inequitable and broken way of deciding important questions of who gets to build and live where.

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Council Round Up - June 22nd-June 25th

When the Vancouver City Council is in session, Abundant Housing Vancouver will be providing a breakdown of important public hearings, housing related motions and other housing business. 

Highlights:

445 Kingsway and 2395 St. George Street

A Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Project (MIRHPP) building with 215 rental homes, a short walk away from the future Mount Pleasant Skytrain station. Public hearing is Tuesday night.

Let City Council know you support more affordable rental housing by writing in support or requesting to speak.

1059-1075 Nelson Street

113 social housing units, 49 rental homes and 323 condos in a Passive House building in the West End. Public hearing is Thursday evening.

Let City Council know you support more housing for a range of incomes by writing in support or requesting to speak.

Corner Store Motion

Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung is bringing a motion to council to direct the planning department to take steps to increase the number of corner stores throughout the city.

If you want to support the motion you can contact Council or request to speak (deadline to register to speak is 1 hour before the start of the meeting).

C-2 Rental Policy

As part of the new Secured Rental Policy, city planning staff is proposing to allow up to six storey mixed use buildings, with rental housing in C-2 zones and requesting that Council refer these changes to a public hearing.

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How Many Homes Should Vancouver Build in The Next Decade?

How many homes should be built in the City of Vancouver over the next decade? The answer, it turns out, depends on a whole range of factors: immigration, crowding, average household size, jobs growth, the vacancy rate, homelessness and, maybe most significantly, *where* within the metropolitan region we decide to build new homes.

For the past 50 years, Metro Vancouver has focused growth in auto-dependent, suburban areas, even as planners and politicians have espoused a philosophy of dense, green, walkable development. Over this period, our actions haven’t matched our words, and despite the widespread image of shimmering condos in False Creek, the typical development in the region looks more like a townhouse in South Surrey than like a transit-adjacent Yaletown condo.

This article will consider some of the various drivers of housing demand and conclude that the City of Vancouver would need to build about 17,000 new homes every year to meet actual demand for housing in this city.

People who follow local politics will know that current targets in public discussion do not come close to this 17,000 home target. Take the Vancouver Housing Strategy, for example. Developed in 2017, this sets a target for 72,000 homes to be built over the next decade, or 7,200/year. And Councillor Hardwick has submitted an even less ambitious motion, estimating a need for roughly 30,000 homes in the City of Vancouver over the next decade.  Both of these targets would continue the past trend of focusing development in auto-oriented suburbs, and would put the lie to any claim that Vancouver is the “Greenest City.” The higher target proposed in this article would allow tens or hundreds of thousands of people to save money, sell their cars, live closer to work and school, and would save our governments billions on roads, transit and infrastructure.

When making these plans, we should also consider which type of mistake would cause more harm: underbuilding or overbuilding? We have seen the consequences of underbuilding in the City of Vancouver: entire neighbourhoods of properties costing over two million dollars. What, then, are the consequences of overbuilding? Only this: an overabundance of bedrooms, lower rents, more neighbours, and more people, shops, jobs, and services within walking distance of every new home.

In producing these estimates, we recognize that predictions are hard, especially about the future. But despite all of that uncertainty, some plan is necessary. Our past plan of auto-oriented development and exclusionary zoning was arguably not successful. So here’s a first, rough guess of housing demand drivers over the next 10 years, and how many homes we would need to meet that demand:

Housing Demand Drivers in the CofV

Homes Needed

Cumulative Total

Trend 2011-2016

45,352

45,352

Increased International Migration

6,531

51,883

Relieve Homelessness

2,223

54,106

Relieve Crowding/Adults w/ Parents

10,000

64,106

Decrease FT Job Vacancies

2,990

67,096

Increase vacancy rate

2,864

69,960

Bring back 2nd Income Decile

6,200

76,160

Re-allocate Growth from Car-Oriented Suburbs

91,392

167,552

Vancouver City Council is meeting this Wednesday, May 27th and will vote on a motion intended to reduce the city’s current 10-year housing target of 72,000. If you care about the issues and values we describe below (click "Read More" if hidden), please write to Council using this contact form and tell them your reasons for wanting a more robust housing target (personal stories are usually better than impersonal arguments).

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Attend an Open House to Push for More Apartments in Vancouver

Vancouver City Council is considering some changes to the city's policies for new rental housing. More new apartments are desperately needed to improve availability and stop rents for existing apartments from spiraling upwards. Your voice is needed to make sure these policies get approved!

What You Can Do

  1. Attend an Open House/Information Session to give City staff your feedback (see dates and locations below). Tell them that the incentives don't go far enough, e.g. 6-storey apartments should be allowed anywhere within 400m of schools, parks, commercial/transit nodes


    From https://www.thepunctuationguide.com/em-dash.html
    © 2020 thepunctuationguide.com


    From https://www.thepunctuationguide.com/em-dash.html
    © 2020 thepunctuationguide.com
    —not just near the busiest, most-polluted streets—and this should be pre-zoned with less parking.
  2. Share our Facebook event on your timeline/Instagram/Twitter. Let your friends know which open house you're attending!
  3. Sign up for our mailing list to stay informed of progress. Just fill out the form on this page and click "Join".
  4. Donate to help us reach more people. Even $5 allows us to boost an event for a day.

What's Being Considered

There are several policy changes under consideration, but a key one is that the city will allow apartment buildings off of major streets for the first time, as long as they are within 400m of parks, schools, or commercial nodes. But there are some big limitations:

  1. Apartments off major streets will be limited to only 4 storeys. This makes it very difficult for apartments to compete with luxury detached houses.
  2. Apartments will only be allowed where the entire block is within 150m of a major street.
  3. Underground parking requirements are expensive and create the need for multiple side-by-side lots to be combined in a "land assembly", which substantially raises the cost of land for apartments (but not for McMansions).
  4. Anywhere with a recent community plan or one in progress—which includes all areas near downtown and the Canada Line—are NOT included in these policies at all.
  5. This is not being done as "pre-zoning"; individual projects will have to apply for a lengthy, expensive and risky rezoning process that ultimately raises the cost of housing for everyone.

When you add up all these restrictions, not much housing may actually get built. And that's not good, because Vancouver Council is 48% behind on the 10 year housing target for purpose-built rental. Council needs to approve apartments 2x faster than the pace of the last 2 years just to avoid falling further behind, and make up for the current shortfall on top of that.

C-2 and Transition Zones Map

Open House Dates and Locations:

Tuesday, March 3, 4pm to 7pm 
Killarney Community Centre, 6260 Killarney St   Add to calendar

Thursday, March 5, 5pm to 7pm 
Dunbar Community Centre, 4747 Dunbar St   Add to calendar

Monday, March 9, 4pm to 7pm 
CityLab, 511 W Broadway   Add to calendar

Tuesday, March 10, 4pm to 7pm 
Hastings Community Centre, 3096 East Hastings St   Add to calendar

Wednesday, March 11, 4pm to 7pm 
Kitsilano Neighbourhood House, 2305 West 7th Ave   Add to calendar

Thursday, March 12, 4pm to 7pm 
Polish Hall, 4015 Fraser St   Add to calendar

Tuesday, March 17, 4pm to 6:30pm 
Sunset Community Centre, 6810 Main St   Add to calendar

You can read more about these "Rental Incentive" policies at the City's web page.

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Finances

We at Abundant Housing Vancouver get a fair number of questions about our finances. Here's the short answer to most questions: we are a self-funded organization on a small budget, and we do not accept funding from real estate organizations.

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Duplex Mania!

Please take a minute and let council know that you do not think banning duplexes is worth diverting staff resources, or spending $175K of public dollars. Please share this email widely and ask your friends, families, and network to do the same.

UPDATE - ON Dec 19, council received the staff report and elected to stay the course.  Duplexes will remain an option in almost all of RS-1.  RS-1 is the zoning district that occupies more land than any other district, while banning more types of housing than any other district.  Thankfully it's now just a tiny bit less restrictive and we look forward to seeing many more options in future.  Thank you top everyone who wrote in!

If you missed the chance to write in, you can still use the instructions below to say "Thanks!" and express your support for allowing neighbourhoods to welcome people of all incomes who want to live there.

Duplex

Allowing two families to share a house is literally the smallest possible step we could take toward more housing choice in our city.

However even this step is too big for some. This Tuesday, Dec 18, council will consider a report on costs ($175K!) to re-institute the duplex ban. Council could then decide to refer the proposed ban to a divisive public hearing, delaying the new city wide plan.  Alternately they could simply accept the report and move on, asking city staff to stay focused on beginning the city wide planning process.

Abundant Housing Vancouver feels the latter choice is the the best answer and we hope you do too.

We need a lot more housing options than just duplexes, so let’s get to work legalizing more, not fewer.

How to Email Mayor and Council

You can email them as a group with this list:

kennedy.stewart@vancouver.ca, CLRbligh@vancouver.ca, CLRboyle@vancouver.ca, CLRcarr@vancouver.ca, CLRdegenova@vancouver.ca, CLRdominato@vancouver.ca, CLRfry@vancouver.ca, CLRhardwick@vancouver.ca, CLRkirby-yung@vancouver.ca, CLRswanson@vancouver.ca, CLRwiebe@vancouver.ca, makingroom@vancouver.ca, info@abundanthousingvancouver.com

Or use the city's online contact form 

Here’s a template you can copy & paste or edit to your liking. However, even a single line is enough, expressing opposition to re-opening the duplex issue.

Subject: Duplexes are fine, let’s move on

Dear Mayor and Council
I oppose the effort to ban duplexes in most neighbourhoods. Let’s concentrate our planning resources on creating a city-wide plan that brings back our families and friends, while ensuring renters and the vulnerable are not pushed out. We need more housing options, not fewer. Duplexes will not work for everyone but they are a tiny step to making the most restrictive, most exclusive land in our city more welcoming.

Reasons I feel we should move forward, not backward:

  • Thousands of Vancouver residents engaged with the Vancouver Housing Strategy that ultimately recommended legalizing duplexes as a first “quick step” to providing more housing. We should not disregard their participation.
  • Keeping duplexes legal will allow a few hundred more families per year to share in our great neighbourhoods.
  • Keeping duplexes legal sends a message to exclusionists that the starting point for city plan, the most that we’ll restrict future housing options, will be duplexes.
  • A city-wide plan has the potential to be truly representative, in a way that public hearings cannot. Let’s keep moving forward with a city-wide plan rather than allow privileged groups to control the process.
  • Spending $175K to forbid a form of housing is a waste of public funds.
  • The city-wide planning process that council has just recently initiated should be staff’s focus, not policing what kind of housing Vancouverites choose to live in.
  • Staff has suggested that duplexes could be considered for the next year as a trial. At the very minimum, this path would be prudent and avoid completely disregarding all the effort and consultation that has already gone into the duplex initiative.
  • I would like to live in a duplex with my family or friends one day!
  • I want the people who might choose duplexes to have that option rather than leaving the city or moving into lower income neighbourhoods

Thank you

 

Background

Agenda for Tuesday, Dec 18

Staff Report: “Costs of Consultation, Time Constraints and Impacts of Pursuing By-law Amendments to Remove Two-family Dwellings (Duplex) from RS Zones”

AHV board member Stuart Smith speaking in opposition to banning duplexes (6:15)

1931 zoning map - just after zoning was introduced, duplexes where allowed everywhere that single family was allowed!

Meanwhile Minneapolis just legalized triplexes…

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Vancouver Election Housing Questionnaire 2018 - Parties for Council & Mayor

Housing is the critical issue in the City of Vancouver municipal election this year. Abundant Housing Vancouver sent a questionnaire to all candidates inquiring about their policies to address the housing shortage. We wish to thank all the candidates who responded. While we are expecting more responses to come in soon, we've received enough to warrant publishing those received thus far. Check back soon for more entries!

Responses we have received from political parties running for Council and Mayor are posted in full below:

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Vancouver Election Housing Questionnaire 2018 - Independents for Mayor

Housing is the critical issue in the City of Vancouver municipal election this year. Abundant Housing Vancouver sent a questionnaire to all candidates inquiring about their policies to address the housing shortage. We wish to thank all the candidates who responded. While we are expecting more responses to come in soon, we've received enough to warrant publishing those received thus far. Check back soon for more entries!

Responses we have received from independent candidates running for Mayor are posted in full below:

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