Top ABC Platform Planks for Housing

This week, the new, ABC-majority City Council was officially sworn in. One of ABC’s stated priorities for this Council session is to address the housing crisis by streamlining permitting and tripling the number of housing starts. How might they go about meeting this ambitious target? Here are the most promising planks we pulled from ABC’s election platform.

  1. Review "Missing Middle" Programs
  2. “Finish a Vancouver Plan OCP (Official Community Plan) in 4 years. Design 15-minute neighbourhoods where services and amenities can be accessed by walking, reducing reliance on motorized vehicles and supporting aging in place.”
  3. “Support increased density along the Hastings Corridor to provide new housing options and economic opportunities.”
  4. Reconciliation: “a stronger and more meaningful partnership, sharing in the wealth of the land and sea, and acknowledges that both the history and future of Indigenous people needs to be self-determined.”
  5. Double Co-op Housing in 4 years
  6. Approve towers in 1 year, apartment buildings in 3 months and townhouses in 3 weeks. Make CAC charges predictable and “re-focus development fees to support the creation of a greater supply of affordable rental housing stock.”

1. Review “Missing Middle” Programs

“The missing middle” can generally include anything from duplexes to small apartment buildings. Over the last half decade, Vancouver’s missing middle programs have been revised often with very little actual implementation. Duplexes, with secondary or “lock-off” suites, are allowed city-wide but cannot be larger than a single-family house, making it difficult for two would-be duplex buyers to outbid a single, deep-pocketed single-family home buyer.

In the middle of the missing middle, the outgoing Council passed two motions to look into allowing multiplexes, but specific policies are yet to come back from city planners. That hasn’t stopped some local small builders from dreaming though.

At the upper end of “the middle”, developers & homeowners can technically apply for a rezoning to build 4-storey rental apartment buildings, but only up to 1 block from certain arterial streets. The terms of the City’s Secured Rental Policy are generally not economically viable, to the point that, up to now, only one application in the entire city is public for off-arterial apartments under RR-2A zoning (there is another application for mixed commercial space & apartments under RR-3A zoning, but RR-3A rezonings are only allowed on the few lots with pre-existing commercial uses).

RR-2A Apartment Example

To make the “missing middle” a big piece of tripling housing starts, Council needs to focus on getting the most homes per redeveloped lot:

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Broadway Plan FAQ for Tenants

MAJOR UPDATE: The City has released a memo that includes an explanation of the proposed tenant protections. See pages 3 to 8 here. Notably, they say that returning tenants will be able to lock in their rent at 20% below the citywide average years before moving in, and it will only increase by the same amount allowed by the Province for occupied apartments (currently restricted to the inflation rate). This is the example they describe for a 1 bedroom in Appendix A (page 8):

If a 2% rent increase per year is assumed and it takes 4 years for the new building to be constructed then the below-
market rent in the new unit would be $1,290/month and the tenant’s original rent would have been $1,695/month if no
redevelopment had occurred

Disclaimer: The following is intended to clarify, in the most abbreviated form practical, the tenant protection policies proposed in the Broadway Plan and potential amendments. The answers are taken from the publicly available sources referenced. We have reached out to planning staff for verification of the answers here (and more) but have not yet received confirmation of accuracy from the City.

What protections for tenants currently exist in the City of Vancouver?

In addition to the Residential Tenancy Act, tenants in Vancouver are protected by the Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy (TRPP). The TRPP includes measures such as right of first refusal, communication requirements, moving allowance, and assistance finding new accommodation. See the following questions for more details.

What additional measures does the draft Broadway Plan propose to protect renters?

In addition to the measures in the TRPP, tenants in rental buildings within the Broadway Plan area will have a few options if their building is redeveloped. These options include:

  1. The right to return to the new building with rent at a 20% discount to CMHC city-wide average rents.

AND

  1. One of either:
    1. Compensation equal to between 4 months of rent (1-5 year tenancies) and 24 months of rent (>40 year tenancies), OR
    2. A top-up subsidy to keep their existing rent at a new apartment while they are waiting to move into the new building.

The major improvement in the Broadway Plan is that tenants will be able to move back into a new building at a 20% discount to average rents for market rental buildings city-wide (per CMHC), whereas the TRPP only offers a 20% discount to starting rents in the new building. So, for example, if market rent in a 1 bedroom apartment today were $2200, the discounted rent for returning tenants would be $1760 under the TRPP, but would be only about $1216 under the Broadway Plan policy.

The proposed protections are described in more detail on page 7 of the Draft Housing Policies.

Press Read More for the rest of the FAQ.

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The Broadway Plan Goes to City Council

Should people be able to live near clean, rapid transit?

That is the question at stake when the future of the Broadway Corridor will be decided this Wednesday, May 18th.

The Plan calls for up to 30,000 additional homes over the next 30 years. It is a small but key step towards building the estimated 136,000 more homes needed by 2032. And being beside the coming Broadway Skytrain will allow tens of thousands of Vancouverites to live a sustainable, low carbon lifestyle. The plan also enacts some of the strongest renter protections anywhere in Canada.

Future of Broadway (Source:Broadway Plan)

 

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Draft Vancouver Plan Survey Walkthrough

The draft Vancouver Plan is out! It seeks to be a guiding vision for creating a greener and more affordable, vibrant and equitable city. It is just a rough sketch, not a detailed plan for specific streets and neighbourhoods. To become useful, it has to get through multiple stages of approvals and detailed planning and policy development. Right now, your support will help the best parts of the vision get approved by Council, and maybe even win some improvements! But hurry, the survey closes April 24th!

Vancouver Plan Land Use Map

When answering the survey (scroll down on the linked page to choose your survey language), we recommend choosing either "Strongly Agree" or "Somewhat Agree" for basically everything. Disagreement will most likely be interpreted as wanting to do less rather than wanting to do more. The text boxes at the bottom of every page let you say exactly what improvements you would like to see. Read on for more detailed suggestions of how to answer each question!

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Broadway Plan Survey Walk-Through

The Broadway Plan will shape Vancouver's "second Downtown" for the next 30 years and beyond. Thousands or tens of thousands of homes, including below-market homes, are at stake. You can add your voice to those calling for more homes by filling out this short survey from the City. But hurry, it closes Tuesday, March 22nd.

Not sure what to say? Read our walk-through below. We recommend choosing "I really like it..." or "I like most aspects..." for every question, as mixed/dislike will most likely be interpreted as wanting a less ambitious plan rather than more.

Elevated view looking west along Broadway.

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SRP Public Hearing - Secured Rental Needs Your Support!

UPDATE: The long-delayed Secured Rental Policy for near local shopping areas is continuing at public hearing this Tuesday, November 9th, at 6:00 p.m. It will enable rezonings within 1 block of an arterial street, as long as the location is close enough to shopping, parks and schools. The same proposal will also change C-2 zoning, commercial zones that currently allow 4-storey condos, to allow 6-storey mixed-use rental buildings without a hearing (mixed-use means that the buildings also have commercial space on the first floor). Council notionally gave the thumbs up to these same proposals back in 2019, but in 2020, NIMBYs complained at the first public hearing and Council sent it back for moar consultation. Now, finally, at the end of 2021, we may be nearing the real implementation of these policies that have been called for since at least 2017! Your support is needed to ensure these policies make it all the way past the finish line this time.

Apartment Building

Click here to send comments to Council, and use subject "1. Streamlining Rental Around Local Shopping Areas" and choose Position: "Support". Better yet, click here to register to speak to Council. A few hundred NIMBYs are fighting this hard, your voice can make a difference!

Here are some points you might want to mention:

- "I support this policy proposal"/"Please approve this item"

- The C-2 rental option is long overdue. Rental rezonings in C-2 areas are never rejected in practice, this is a practical step that will save everyone time and make rental more competitive with condo development, which does not require a rezoning.

- The streamlined rezoning policy for transition areas is also long overdue. Renters deserve to be able to live off of busy, polluted arterial streets. This was approved by Council in 2019 and Staff have been working on it since then, consulting widely with a range of Vancouverites of different backgrounds. It would not be fair to taxpayers, nor to the people who participated in shaping this policy, to reject it now.

- This will help prevent urban sprawl. Other cities in Metro Vancouver are still cutting down forests to build housing on the outskirts of the metro, usually close to highways and far from public transit. Housing policy is climate policy.

- The policy has additional incentives to help build social housing. Social housing providers support this policy.

- The simplified rezoning process is important and will help get more rental built. Not requiring a public hearing or a rezoning at all would be much better.

- Some of the proposed changes are an improvement on the former Affordable Housing Choices policy. This is not a radically new policy and rental rezonings are regularly covered in the media, as was consultation for this policy. Polling by Research Co shows that Vancouverites support these missing middle housing options: "fewer than one-in-five [oppose] 6-storey rental buildings (19%), ...[and] 4-storey rental buildings (14%)..."

- Recent academic research matches housing economists' intuition: Building new apartments helps lower rents nearby, and at the metro level. The large majority of people that move into new apartments in Vancouver already live in the metro area; freeing up cheaper apartments for new tenants.

- That being said, the transition areas policy does not go nearly far enough:

  • Renters should be allowed to live more than one block off of arterial streets. It is not fair, not equitable, and not reasonable to reserve quiet streets only for multi-million dollar houses. Council has already passed a motion stating that rental does not belong only on busy arterial streets, but that is not reflected in this policy.
  • Some of Vancouver's best-loved neighbourhoods, like the West End, Mt. Pleasant, and Kerrisdale, integrate lots of apartment buildings on side streets.
  • According to the City's own analysis, off-arterial apartments will not be viable in many locations. Expanding the eligible area to two (or more) blocks from the arterials would help get more apartments actually built. Council can do this at the hearing, or approve the proposal as-is and direct staff to come back with a proposal to expand the eligibility map.
  • This new map excludes many areas that were included under the previous rental policy. Places like Shaughnessy need apartments, and local-serving retail too, and should not be excluded.
  • Some of the below-market rental options are especially uneconomical and unlikely to see much uptake. Council should look at improving these in the future. All of the below-market rental options are on arterials, as only 4-storey buildings are allowed off-arterial and they do not offer enough density to make a below-market component economical.
  • The majority of new development in Vancouver is still detached houses and duplexes. Every torn down house is an opportunity for better land use, every new detached house is a missed opportunity.

Eligibility Map

Note on the map: "Community Plan Areas" in hatched lines are excluded from the policy. (Should they be though?)

Background Info:

A blog post explaining the policy and why it is needed

City of Vancouver's page for the Streamling Rental

Why Secure Rental is Important (PDF, City of Vancouver)

Proposed Changes for Low-Density "Transition" Areas (PDF, City of Vancouver)

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Vancouver Plan Workshops and More... Happening Now!

The multi-year Vancouver Plan has entered its "Options & Trade-offs" phase and planners are looking for your input. This is an important opportunity to tell City Hall that apartment buildings should be legalized throughout the city, and that the super-majority of our residential land must not be reserved only for the wealthy. The status quo is terrible, with exclusionary zoning making Vancouver less affordable, pushing people out, exacerbating urban sprawl, making commutes longer, and accelerating climate change. Please raise your voice to ensure we get the change we so badly need. But, tickets for the virtual workshops are selling out fast, so register for one today!

Vancouver Plan Workshops

You can register for the workshop listed for the neighbourhood you currently live in, or any neighbourhood/area you are interested in. Click on the links below to register:

Fairview, Mount Pleasant, Shaughnessy, South Cambie, Riley Park: Mon Nov. 1, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM OR Tue Nov. 2, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Kerrisdale, Oakridge, Marpole: Mon Nov. 1, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM OR Tue Nov. 2, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Grandview-Woodland, Hastings-Sunrise, Kensington-Cedar Cottage: Mon Nov. 8, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM OR Tue Nov. 9, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Sunset, Victoria-Fraserview, Renfrew-Collingwood, Killarney: Tue Nov. 9, 6:00 PM-7:30 PM OR Wed, Nov. 10 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

West Point Grey, Kitsilano, Arbutus Ridge, Dunbar-Southlands: Mon Nov. 15, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Downtown, West End, Downtown Eastside, Strathcona: Mon Nov. 15, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

There is also an opportunity to drop-in to the "Open House" running at City Lab, 511 W Broadway, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm until November 25th. We still recommend signing up for the virtual workshops first, if you can, so you can discuss with your neighbours, get the full presentation, and have your views recorded as part of the focus group. But you can do both!

Don't forget to tell your friends we need "4 floors and corner stores," everywhere!

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Rental Survey Closes Soon!

Survey on Rental in “Transition Areas” and Some Commercial Zones Closes Soon; Fill it out Today!

Apartments on a quiet streetThe City of Vancouver wants to hear from you about their revised policy allowing apartments near arterial roads. The policy will allow single-family (RS) and duplex (RT) lots to be rezoned for small rental buildings, generally up to 6-storeys on arterial roads and 4-storeys up to one block away. Kitsilano NIMBYs are fighting this hard, the policy is at risk of being watered-down even more. Your voice can make a difference!

TL;DR: Here are a few important points to consider before answering the survey (direct link here - ends July 27th):

Question 1: The City should encourage the construction of secure market rental housing/below market rental housing/social housing in more neighbourhoods?

  • We strongly agree with all three of these points.

Question 2: Would the proposed changes make it faster and easier to build new secure rental housing / complete neighbourhoods / to address climate emergency?

  • We agree with all three of these points, with some reservations.

Question 3: Do you have any comments specific to the zoning changes for rental housing in C-2 areas [busy commercial streets]?

  • This change will allow rental housing at 6-storeys to compete with condos/strata on a more level playing field. This is overdue.
  • More options, such as 12-storey mass timber buildings, should be considered, especially on larger sites or near rapid transit.

Question 4: Do you have any comments specific to the rezoning policy changes for rental housing in low density areas, or the new standard rental zones?

  • Still Breathing Diesel Fumes: This policy still only allows apartments within 1 block of arterial streets. Renters deserve to be allowed to live on quiet, clean side streets too. The 1 block limit should be removed entirely: apartments should be allowed anywhere near schools, parks, or shopping nodes (or just anywhere!).
  • More Options for Moderate Income Rental: There are not enough incentives for moderate income rental apartments and the incentives described do not appear very financially attractive. Only a 9% increase in floor space is offered for reserving 20% of an apartment building for below market apartments, and this small bonus is only allowed directly on arterial streets. The City is running way behind the rental targets in the Vancouver Housing Strategy, there should be more and better incentives, such as allowing 6-storey buildings with moderate income homes off-arterial and providing options for 12-storey mass timber construction in at least some locations.
  • This is an important policy for creating much-needed rental housing. The scale of this policy has not changed much from what has been allowed for years; which ignores the worsening crisis, a critical shortage of rental housing and the rapidly rising rents over the past several years. More ambitious policies are needed now.

 You can answer the survey and read more about the policy at the City’s consultation page, but be sure to submit your thoughts as the survey closes soon!

 Want to know more? More analysis after the flip…

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Broadway Plan Survey Key Points & Walk-Through

Survey Closes March 31st

The "Phase 2" consultation for the Broadway Plan has been posted with a detailed survey that is open until the end of March. The Emerging Directions give a general, if vague, idea of the kinds of land use changes currently expected for the many sub-areas in the Broadway Plan. The Broadway Plan area stretches from Clark in the East to Vine in the West, with sub-areas for Mt. Pleasant, Fairview, and Kitsilano.

Broadway Plan Simple Map of "Character Areas"

The Broad Strokes of the Broadway Plan

The Good

The Emerging Directions have a strong focus on protecting tenants and maintaining affordability. The Plan will consider detached and duplex (RS/RT) zones that were previously off-limits, to help create new apartments where the risk of displacement of renters is the lowest. The large Queen Elizabeth Park view cone that greatly restricts development in the area will be reviewed to ensure that Broadway can add enough height to function as Vancouver's 'second downtown' while maintaining affordability. In Commercial "villages", including busy arterial Main Street, an approach similar to the West End will be pursued, where the lower scale of the commercial high street is maintained in favour of adding housing off-arterial (in the residential areas, because housing is residential!).

The Not as Good

The plan alludes to a highly incremental approach that may not work in practice. Making big promises about affordability and public realm improvements requires much bigger change in what types of housing are allowed, for two reasons. First, maintaining market affordability (the vast majority of existing housing is market-rate) requires building enough to satiate the strong demand to live in a vibrant, central and growing area like this. Secondly, increases in allowed floor-space and height are what create the "land-lift" that allows the City to raise money for improvements, social housing, and below-market rental. An incremental approach intended to reduce speculation will more likely result in too little housing, too late, and thus continued spiraling rents combined with only modest increases in the number of below-market homes. The 2016 Grandview-Woodland Plan also pursued a policy of incremental increases in height in many areas, and has so far achieved 0% of its population growth target!

Survey Walk-through / Cheat Sheet

The survey is rather long, but you can choose how much of it you want to do. To make sure you can finish, you may want to skip one or two neighbourhoods so that you can focus on the ones you are interested in. With that, it's time to open the survey in a new tab and click "Read More" below to get started!

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Vancouver Plan Displacement Survey

Important Survey Closes this Weekend (March 22nd)

Planners are asking residents for their thoughts on housing, displacement and exclusion in the City's neighbourhoods. You can take the survey at this link, or read more on the ShapeYourCity page for Vancouver Plan - Housing.

Some thoughts on key questions:

Question 2 is about the definition of residential displacement, the types of which are defined as:

  • Physical (direct) displacement - i.e. having to leave your home because it is being renovated or redeveloped, is in an unlivable condition, or you have been evicted;
  • Economic (indirect) displacement - i.e. having to leave your home because you can no longer afford rent or you can no longer afford or access your daily needs such as a grocery store; and
  • Cultural displacement - i.e. leaving your neighbourhood because you can no longer afford or access your cultural needs such as culturally appropriate stores, spaces or services.

I partly disagree: The working definition basically assumes that people will live their entire lives in the exact same home. If someone has to leave their preferred neighbourhood because their housing needs change and no suitable housing is available that is affordable to them, that is still displacement. The definition could be extended to people who would prefer to live in a given area, say near their work, but cannot afford to move there in the first place, as the only difference between this and the proposed definition is incumbency. Additionally, if someone can afford to move into a suitable nearby home when they are "physically" displaced from their current home, then they are not really being displaced.

Question 6 covers multiple topics. The first two, "Allow more height and density (units) for new social and rental housing buildings to make them financially viable" and Adding housing diversity (i.e. rental apartment buildings) in areas with low housing choice (i.e. single family neighbourhoods) are, in my opinion, Very Important.
Question 8 is should it be a priority as part of Vancouver Plan to make neighbourhoods with housing too expensive for most Vancouver residents more inclusive to low to moderate income households (with annual incomes under $80,000)?
My thoughts: Strongly Agree. It does not make any sense for the City to prevent people from living in apartments in any residential area. Single-family detached and duplex zoning is socialism for the rich and is economically and socially damaging for the city at large. Even if the City cannot immediately make every area generally affordable to those making under $80k, making the most exclusive areas affordable to people more people would still be a big improvement, very easy, and would have knock-on affordability and anti-displacement benefits throughout the city.
 
Question 9 is Vancouver is a growing city that is expected to continue to experience population growth over the long-term. What approaches to this growth should we take to make the City more inclusive (e.g. more social housing, more secure options for renters)? 
My thoughts: Social housing and secure rental are both important and should be prioritized and fast-tracked. The City should also remember that the market is made up of the wants and needs of real people, and mostly try to accommodate market demands and not get in the way with restrictive zoning or long/expensive/complex permitting processes.
The City should also eliminate DCLs and other permitting fees, and 'pay for growth' out of general revenue instead; it is not fair to charge newcomers an ever-escalating entry fee to live here, especially when newcomers provide so many important services that we all need and the assumed costs bear little resemblance to any actual cost imposed on the City.
Question 12 is Given increasing homelessness and the need for a variety of housing types and affordability levels to meet the needs of our diverse City, do you agree or disagree that all neighbourhoods should have...
Social services (e.g. temporary shelters, warming centres, meal services, mental health and addiction services) available
All types of housing (e.g. supportive, social, purpose-built rental housing apartments, condos, houses
My thoughts: Strongly agree to both. First, it is generally better to let everyone from condo owners to rental operators to social services providers go wherever in the City they themselves determine best meets their goals & needs; zoning does not need to impede this. Second, I believe mixed income neighbourhoods will help create more resilient communities and foster understanding and community between diverse groups. Furthermore, having services available in all neighbourhoods will help residents to access supports when they first need them instead of once they have already 'fallen through the cracks' in these services.
Question 13 is Do you have any other comments about housing, displacement and exclusion in Vancouver?
I could say a lot here! Some thoughts:
- In general, permitting a lot more apartments (below market and market-rate) in Vancouver will improve affordability and housing options for residents, and prevent displacement by taking demand away from existing apartments.
- Building lots of apartments will also support our climate action targets by providing more customers for local shopping in walk-able/roll-able neighbourhoods, and more customers for public transit. Right now, most houses in Vancouver get replaced with new bigger houses, and most of the metro's population growth is in car-oriented suburbs rather than in transit-friendly Vancouver.
- New housing should be focused in the least dense areas with the lowest concentration of renters, to prevent displacement. This will also make better renter protections and compensation viable.
- "Neighbourhood character" is an aesthetic fetish invented for exclusion and should not be a serious consideration for the city government.
Other questions are of course important too, but require less commentary. We 'Strongly Agree' with more homes for everybody, everywhere! Good luck on the survey (link).
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