Vancouver mayor-elect's vows may have neglected zoning

by Ephraim Vecina25 Oct 2018

With his victory, Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart vowed to build 85,000 new rental homes over the next decade, but data analyst Jennifer Bradshaw of Abundant Housing Vancouver said that the plan might have ignored some very important zoning considerations.

Already, the city does not even have enough land remaining to make the promised housing (60,000 of which would be rentals) a realistic prospect, Bradshaw argued.

This is on top of Vancouver’s increasing densification, exemplified by areas such as the downtown core and Chinatown.

“The city does have quite a bit of land that they could certainly, with non-profits, build on,” Bradshaw told CBC News. “But I do think they would perhaps have to go buy more, especially on the West Side.”

“We’re going to have a Burnaby model where you are going to have to demolish those buildings and then build new developments on top of that, which is really not ideal,” she added. “We want to keep those affordable rentals and we want to build elsewhere.”

What’s more, even the tens of thousands of additional rental units may not be able to bring down costs as much as Stewart might be hoping.

“It will have some downward pressure but really, most people in Vancouver, are living in market rentals.”

Read more: Flip rates in Vancouver, Toronto are much less than one would expect

Urban Development Institute chairperson Jon Stovell agreed that the plan may not succeed in improving affordability to a noticeable extent.

“Without any land cost at all, the cost of a 600 square foot studio would be $1,800 to $2,000 a month,” according to Stovell, who is also president and CEO of Reliance Properties.

“That just barely clicks in at 30% of somebody making $80,000 a year but that’s at the very top end of this affordability range that they’re looking for.”

Stovell noted that Stewart’s promise seemingly neglected the fact that construction and development costs are “very, very high right now.”

“Processing is slow and costly. You’re paying property taxes while you’re waiting. A lot of these things are working against even creating that affordability.”

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