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City takes significant steps in providing affordable housing in 2016

December 28 2016

"We want to see housing for all our residents available at more affordable rates, as quickly as possible," says Mayor Gregor Robertson

Apartments in the Vancouver's West End

In 2016, we took many actions to address housing affordability and to boost rental housing supply in Vancouver.

"We're very proud of the City's leadership this year to take immediate action in addressing housing affordability. We want to see housing for all our residents available at more affordable rates, as quickly as possible. The steps the City took this year show how dedicated our staff and council are to taking innovative action to address this affordability crisis," says Mayor Gregor Robertson. "There's no question there is more work to do, and we'll keep pushing the pace in 2017."

To increase affordable housing in Vancouver, the following initiatives, partnerships, and housing were created in 2016.

Investment in housing

Looking ahead to 2017, City Council approved a record investment in affordable housing for the coming year. In the 2017 Budget, we will invest $80-million in affordable housing, the largest one-time investment in Vancouver's history.

We dedicated $85-million in the 2015-2018 Capital Plan to create more affordable housing options for our residents; however we recognize that more tools are needed to further increase affordability in Vancouver.

We have offered 20 sites of land worth $250-million to the provincial and federal governments to build affordable housing in Vancouver. The BC Government, through BC Housing, is working with us to secure a commitment of up to $21-million towards replacing existing and creating 394 affordable homes at the River District, 3510 Fraser St and 124 Dunlevy Ave.  A continued focus by the City, its partners, and senior levels of government will be required to fully achieve Vancouver's housing goals.

Vancouver's first land trust

For the first of its kind in Vancouver, an agreement between the governments of Canada and British Columbia, the City of Vancouver, and the co-op and non-profit housing sector was made to create 358 new affordable homes on City-owned sites.

The Vancouver Land Trust  partnership will provide much-needed additional housing for families and seniors in need of affordable housing. Over 50% of the housing will be for families and 30% for seniors, with people paying 76% of market rate.

This project is possible through the innovative partnership model between the City, Fraserview Housing Co-operative, Sandford Housing Society, Tikva Housing Society, BC Housing, New Market Funds, and Vancity.

Temporary modular housing

Bringing innovative building solutions to Vancouver, the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA) developed Vancouver's first temporary modular housing project at 220 Terminal. VAHA is exploring future sites to expand the pilot.

The homes will quickly increase the supply of affordable housing, while taking advantage of underutilized sites until more permanent housing is built.

Council approved amendments to introduce a new definition and regulations for temporary modular housing, as well as temporary modular housing design guidelines, at a public hearing on December 13, 2016.

Grandview-Woodland Community Plan

After 4 years of community engagement, including 85 open houses, workshops, meetings and walking tours, 2,500 survey responses, and Vancouver's first Citizen's Assembly, the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan was approved.

The plan will add new family homes, protect and increase rental homes, improve community amenities, create new social housing, and preserve the unique culture of Commercial Drive.

Over the next 30 years, the plan aims to add 4,350 new opportunities for more affordable types of homes, addressing community needs and population growth, such as townhouses, duplexes, rowhouses, and other multi-family options.

Rental

As of the end of September, we have implemented 5,900 rental homes. Of these:

  • 1,500 rental homes have been built 
  • 2,500 are currently under construction
  • 1,900 have been approved 

In addition, we approved the 2,500th laneway house permit in 2016. Since this innovative form of housing was approved by Council in 2009, laneway houses have steadily grown in popularity, providing much-needed accommodation for Vancouver residents.

Social housing

As part of our strategy to provide social housing units and create new affordable, community-focused housing, 301 new social housing developments are currently under construction.

Developments in progress include:

  • The first project from the Downtown Eastside Plan at 288 East Hastings 
  • Micro-dwellings for women and women-led families in the Downtown Eastside and housing for seniors living at 601 Main Street in Chinatown 
  • The innovative Fire Hall No. 5 and YWCA Pacific Spirit Terrace which will provide 31 new homes for single mothers and their children  

Already completed this year are 218 new social housing units, as well as the construction of the New Jubilee House, providing 162 new homes for at-risk seniors and low-income residents.

Approved by Council in 2016

Family housing mix

To increase housing options for Vancouver families, a new family housing policy was approved requiring 35% of all homes to be two- and three-bedrooms.  

This policy sets new standards, up from 25%, and increases the supply of family homes in new strata and rental buildings with a focus on creating much needed 3-bedroom houses.

Empty Homes Tax

To combat Vancouver's extremely low rental vacancy rate, a new tax was approved by Council.

The Empty Homes Tax aims to bring back some of the 10,800 long-term empty homes and more than 10,000 under-occupied homes back into Vancouver's rental market, at a time when the vacancy rate is close to zero.

Affordable Home Ownership Pilot

With rapidly-rising housing costs and a shortage of family-sized units, the Affordable Home Ownership Pilot Program was approved to help fill a gap in the market.  

The program, which is the first of its kind in Vancouver, will allow young families aspiring to own a home to enter the market for the first time and put down roots to live and thrive in Vancouver.  

City staff have submitted the Vancouver Charter amendment to the provincial government and are waiting for policy changes before pursuing pilot options.

Short-term Rental Regulations

Council approved a proposed framework and next steps to regulate short-term rentals, including a licensing approach and enforcement.

The new regulations will allow approximately 50% of current short-term rental listings and almost all private room listings in an effort to protect existing rental homes and ensure they're available for long-term rental.

Other bold initiatives

National Housing Strategy

Demonstrating national leadership, we urged the federal government to embrace bold new approaches for delivering affordable housing in Canada as part of a submission for a new National Housing Strategy.

Our submission includes a comprehensive set of recommendations that urges the federal government's immediate action and investment to tackle the housing crisis, support rental options, co-op housing, and affordable home ownership, and action on homelessness and tent cities.

re:address Housing Conference

In the fall of 2016, housing experts from around the world gathered for Vancouver's first international housing conference, re:address.

We are in the process of resetting our current Housing and Homeless Strategy and have been utilizing a series of interactions with global leaders, local experts, engaged citizens, and the re:address conference to shape the direction of the next Housing and Homeless Strategy's five to 10-year priorities.