It’s no surprise that one of the most talked-about issue in Vancouver real estate over the last few years has been about the affordability and availability of rental housing.
The City of Vancouver is trying to find a way around the lack of available rental units and the affordability of them. The city is currently reviewing the Rental Incentive Programs for any recommendations on improvement.
Programs that are currently in place for renters
There are quite a few strong protections in place for renters and rental housing. Right now, there are measures to protect existing rental and expand the supply of new market and non-market rental housing. There is also a tenant relocation policy to protect tenants
Vancouver is known to have the tightest rental market and one of the lowest vacancy rates in Canada. The population keeps growing and the supply of homes sometimes feels like it’s decreasing. Everyone would agree that the need for rental housing is imperative.
Here are the current rental programs:
Moderate Income Housing Pilot Program – where 100% of the residential floor area is secured rental housing and at least 20% of the residential floor area is available to moderate income households.
Rental 100: Secured Market Rental Housing Policy – where they encourage the development of projects with residential units that are 100% rental.
Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy and Rental Housing Stock Official Development Plan – where redevelopment projects with six or more dwelling units replace every demolished rental unit.
Laneway Housing – where a smaller, detached home on a single family lot is rented out and replaces a detached garage.
Secondary Suites in Single-Family Areas – where full-size basements and livable basement suites are allowed in all single-family and multi-unit areas in the city.
Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing (STIR) – where new building projects are encouraged by offering incentives to developers. In return, developers agreed to provide up to 100% of the units in their developments as rentals for the life of the building, or 60 years.
Rental Incentive Programs Review
The City of Vancouver is reviewing the Rental Incentive Programs for building new rental housing to accommodate the growing population. The review is being done in two phases. Phase 1 was carried out through August 2018 to July 2019, and Phase 2 is currently incomplete.
The first phase examined the performance of the City’s rental incentive policies over the past decade. Two independent consultants, CitySpaces and Coriolis Consulting Corp, conducted studies and reported their findings on July 24, 2019. They took a look at the rental incentive programs the city has launched over the past decade.
They found that the rental incentive program was successful in creating an increased rental supply. It was also noted that the incentives provided currently are necessary for the delivery of new rental housing. Without the rental incentives, it could be very difficult to build any rental housing in the city which could result in a drop in supply that would not meet the demand.
So many of us residents in Vancouver are renters. And most of us know the struggle of trying to find a good place to rent. It can’t be said enough that supply still doesn’t quite meet demand.
A few issues we’ve seen over the years have affected us in some way. For starters, there were very few purpose-built rental buildings constructed between 1980 and 2009. It also doesn’t help that much of the existing rental buildings are old and in need of upgrades. Even with all the new rental units being built, we can all agree that the biggest issue with them is that the new rental buildings aren’t producing units that are affordable for local residents.
The Key Findings of the Reports
- Rental incentives are effective
- Rental housing continues to be in short supply
- Rental incentives are essential
- Streamlining of incentive programs is needed
- Processing timelines are too lengthy
- High costs of rental housing continue
- Affordable rental housing requires further incentives or government subsidies
- Expanding opportunities for new rental housing
- Enabling new rental housing in all neighbourhoods would support an increase in supply and choice
- Livability considerations would benefit from further exploration
- Communicating trade-offs to the public
Issues for consideration
It’s very rare to get something perfect the first time. In terms of the report, several issues were brought up for consideration. One of these issues was the over-supply of parking in market rental buildings. Apparently, an occupancy survey found that less than half of the parking spaces were being used.
There is also an issue with the long rezoning application process times. It takes far too long for the rezoning application to go through and creates uncertainty and risk for developers.
The report also pointed out the importance of the rental incentive program in delivering housing that caters to the middle-income households.
It is expected that the report with the official recommendations will come back to council in late November or early December.