More help coming for Vancouver renters in new Housing Vancouver strategy

November 22, 2017 (Vancouver) The City of Vancouver’s new Housing Vancouver strategy will include several measures to make life easier for Vancouver renters, with new resources and programs to protect and assist renters in difficult circumstances, as well as significantly boost new rental housing.

“In a near-zero rental vacancy market, and with more than half of households in the city renting, many renters are in precarious situations,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “The City is proposing new steps that will further protect renter households, as well as help renters navigate City departments to get the info they need when facing challenges like ‘renovictions’. We are also looking at new ways to boost the creation of new rental supply so that renters have more choices for affordable, good quality rental housing.”

“Vancouver already has the strongest tenant relocation and protection policy across the province - we want our renters to feel secure and safe with their homes” said Gil Kelley, General Manager, Planning, Urban Design, and Sustainability. “Our Housing Vancouver strategy lays the groundwork for an increased variety of rental housing across the city - the right homes Vancouver’s renters need, and can afford - and we anticipate that two-thirds of all new homes built in the next 10 years will be rentals.”

New actions set out in the strategy will not only increase the overall number of rentals, but also create more protections for current renters in our city. Those actions include:

  • Providing a dedicated Renters Protection Manager within the City, to assist Vancouver renters on things like permit information and the rights they have when a landlord seeks to redevelop or renovate.
  • Amending the Zoning and Development By-law to permit collective housing i.e. shared living arrangements for six or more unrelated roommates in single-family areas.
  • Protecting renters and preserving the existing 90,000 rental homes throughout Vancouver by lowering the threshold that triggers one-for-one rental replacement. Currently, developments with six or more units must replace any rental units demolished as a result of that development. Replacement requirements will now be applied to projects with three or more units.
  • Implementing a city-wide Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program to deliver rental housing through density bonusing, whereby a building can get extra height and density provided it is 100 per cent rental with at least 20 per cent of the units permanently affordable for people on low incomes. Between January 2018 and June 2019, City staff will recommend up to 20 projects to Council for consideration. Under the program, targeted rents will be linked to household income ranging from: $950 for a studio, $1,200 for a one bedroom, $1,600 for a two bedroom, and $2,000 for a three-bedroom unit. 
  • Launching a new Social Purpose Real Estate Incentive Program, to support non-profits and co-ops who own their land and buildings to redevelop and expand affordable housing. This program will also build on the successful redevelopments seen in the last year with the Lutheran, United and First Baptist Churches, with the City providing additional density, per door grant funding and other incentives to affordable housing providers, churches and other non-profits to redevelop their sites and deliver new affordable housing.

The City is also proposing the creation of “Rental Only Zones” and increased use of density bonusing, rather than lengthy rezoning processes, to support faster delivery of new rental housing buildings.

These steps build on the City’s recent initiatives to assist renters, including Canada’s first Empty Homes Tax, to discourage speculation and incentivize empty units to be rented; and new regulations for short-term rentals, to increase rental supply and protect secondary suites and laneway houses for long-term rental.

The City’s new Housing Vancouver strategy proposes a significant increase in housing supply: 72,000 new homes over 10 years, with two-thirds of those homes to be rental. This is a 50 per cent increase in supply from current trends.  In terms of the 10-year targets:

  • 50 per cent of new homes will serve households earning less than $80,000 annually
  • 40 per cent of new homes will be large enough for families
  • 12,000 will be social, supportive and non-profit co-operative homes and, of those, 4,100 will have supports
  • 20,000 will be secure, long-term market rental homes
  • 4,000 new laneway homes will provide ground level homes for couples and families
  • More ownership options will be available for first time homebuyers, families, and downsizing seniors

“The Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre (TRAC) is extremely pleased with the City of Vancouver’s Housing Strategy and Action Plan. Vancouver tenants are facing unaffordable rents, threats to security of tenure, deteriorating buildings, and a lack of support services. Thankfully, the City of Vancouver will be implementing several measures to improve the lives of Vancouver tenants: the Empty Homes Tax will help increase the number of long-term rental units; the Short-Term Rental regulations will ensure that tenants are prioritized over tourists; and the Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy will offer protections beyond the scope of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). TRAC also fully supports the plan to create a Renters Protection Manager position at the City of Vancouver, which we anticipate will help the City proactively educate and prevent disputes between tenants and landlords.  In the coming years, TRAC looks forward to seeing how the City can continue to strengthen protections for Vancouver tenants by collaborating with senior levels of government, encouraging reinvestment in aging properties, and advocating for legislative change to the RTA,” said Andrew Sakamoto, Executive Director, Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre (TRAC).

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