HomeHousingCondosCity could allow developers to build all-rental instead of social housing

City could allow developers to build all-rental instead of social housing

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Changes would allow luxury condominium tower proposals to switch to all-rental, and replace social housing requirement with below-market rental units

The City of Vancouver is contemplating major changes to social housing delivery in the West End in response to a changing condo market.

Since the West End Community Plan was enacted in 2013, several projects — mostly luxury condominium towers with social housing units meant to replace rental units lost through redevelopment — have been successfully completed. These include The Jervis and Mirabel, in addition to 100 per cent rental projects like Pendrell by Westbank, the Safeway redevelopment, and Reliance Properties’ Bidwell and Davie tower.

However, plans for several luxury condominium towers with replacement social housing along Thurlow Street have stalled, and not proceeded to public hearing or enactment despite being approved in principle.

These include projects from Bosa, Intracorp and Strand, and together represent 342 units of social housing and 866 of strata housing.

• Site 1: 1068-1080 Burnaby Street and 1332 Thurlow Street
Developer: Strand/Intracorp
Status: approved in principle at public hearing but CD-1 not yet enacted

1068-1080 Burnaby Street and 1318 Thurlow Street tower drawing
Drawing of the upcoming tower at 1068-1080 Burnaby Street. Credit: NSDA Architects

• Site 2: 1055 Harwood Street
Developer: Strand/Intracorp
Status: approved in principle at public hearing but CD-1 not yet enacted

Rendering of 1055 Harwood Street
Rendering of 1055 Harwood Street. Credit: NSDA Architects

• Site 3: 1066-1078 Harwood Street
Developer: Bosa/BlueSky Properties
Status: has not proceeded to public hearing

North and south towers at Thurlow + Harwood project
Thurlow + Harwood towers. Credit: BlueSky Properties

• Site 4: 1065 Harwood Street and 1332 Thurlow Street
Developer: Bosa
Status: has not proceeded to public hearing

Project location
Location of the project showing North and South tower sites. Credit: BlueSky Properties

• Site 5: 1040-1080 Barclay Street
Developer: Bosa
Status: has not proceeded to public hearing

1040-1080 Barclay Street rendering 2018
1040-1080 Barclay Street. Credit: City of Vancouver/Bosa Properties
Rezoning applications in areas D and E between 2013 and 2018
Rezoning applications in areas D and E between 2013 and 2018. Credit: City of Vancouver

In a report set to go before council today, city staff state: “Recent shifts in Vancouver’s real estate market have impacted the financial viability of strata condominium developments and consequently made it challenging to deliver social housing in the West End as part of the inclusionary housing policy. The delivery of rental housing, however, appears to be viable as demonstrated by a number of West End applicants who have approached the City seeking to switch from strata with inclusionary housing to 100 per cent rental housing.”

The proposed changes, if approved by council, would allow rezoning proposals with 100 per cent secured rental housing in which a minimum of 20 per cent of the residential floor area is secured below-market rental — as opposed to social housing units to replace the rental units that would be lost during redevelopment, as currently required.

The changes would only apply within rezoning areas D and E of the Burrard Corridor in the West End Community Plan.

Rezoning Policy for the West End with Areas D and E
Rezoning Policy for the West End with Areas D and E highlighted. Credit: City of Vancouver

If approved, developers would be able to switch from the current strata with inclusionary social housing to an alternative that considers 100 per cent rental housing with a below-market component “intended to achieve similar affordability within the rental housing.” The option would be available for a two-year period ending December 31, 2022.

The city says the below-market rental units would be required to meet affordability requirements for households with moderate incomes. The units would be privately owned and operated, secured by a housing agreement and covenant for the longer of 60 years and the life of the building.

The West End Community Plan established a 10-year social housing target of 600 units. To date, 567 units of social housing have been approved in the West End, amounting to 94 per cent of the Plan’s 10-year target. However, only 308 units have been built or are under construction, with the remainder delayed or not proceeding at this time, due to changing market conditions for the luxury condominium towers needed to make the social housing units possible.

The city hopes these proposed changes can help stimulate the development of below-market rental housing, at similar affordability levels to the social housing that would have been developed.

Peter Meiszner
Peter Meisznerhttps://www.peterforvancouver.com/
I am planning to run for Vancouver City Council in 2022. Please visit peterforvancouver.com to stay informed on my campaign.
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