Expect more of the same this year

by Neil Sharma05 Jan 2018
With a municipal election in Vancouver this year, the approvals process could be even slower, but one thing not expected to change is the city’s supply crunch.

Byron Chard, Chard Development’s chief financial and acquisitions officer, says the inventory shortage that’s plagued the city for seemingly time immemorial will take on a different dimension this year, with calls for more housing diversity.

“Housing diversity and varied supply will be a big topic,” Chard told REP. “To be able to build affordable condos and rentals and a lower-end spectrum, you still need condo development and you need a good diverse spectrum to make it financially feasible, so I think it will be a hot topic during the municipal election.”

But Chard expects the municipal election to become a spanner in works of sorts, particularly with respect to project approvals.

“I think this will be a difficult year to get projects approved because of the municipal elections. We might even see a decrease in the amount of supply as politicians may want to filibuster approvals until they get through elections next year,” he said.

“Politicians try to protect themselves to get re-elected and sometimes that means they don’t approve specific projects.”

However, Chard expects developers to get creative in 2018, and while that might mean some housing types won’t be conventionally desirable, they’ll be temporary stopgaps for a city struggling with escalating prices, low supply and a dangerously low vacancy rate.

“I see a continued mix of housing – this could be new solutions coming into the housing market, developers being creative with more lock-off townhomes,” he said. “More young families can have a mortgage helper by renting out rooms; having secondary, or rental, suites in one of the levels. It helps people get into the market.”

Another such solution that might make its way into Vancouver this year, where it’s presently prohibited, is micro-units: studio units below 400 square feet.

“For a renter or somebody entering the city before they take that next step, it’s a solution,” said Chard.

The new provincial government is slated to unveil its housing strategy sometime this year, and that will largely determine the fate of Vancouver’s overheated market.

“Another big trend this year is going to be watching closely what the government is doing on all levels,” said Chard. “The NDP promised different strategies, so we’re waiting on pins and needles to see how they’ll assist in creating more housing diversity. I wish there was a silver bullet, but there’s not going to be one.”

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