Sunday, April 26, 2009


Yesterday, an impressive selection of Vancouver developers, architects, housing advocates, and government officials gathered at the Mountainview Cemetery Celebration Hall, at the invitation of the mayor, to discuss how best to accelerate the supply of new rental housing. Prior to the meeting, each participant was asked to prepare a 'one-pager' setting out their thoughts. Below is what I submitted. In future posts, I will report on the discussion, and what I think the city should do.

1. Why has rental housing not been built?
• The economic rent is greater than the market rent; due to GST, land and construction costs, ‘rent controls’, etc.
• Development of market condominiums has been more profitable;
• Federal tax policies have ‘discriminated’ against rental: GST, depreciation policies;
• Previous government programs have distorted the market: Limited Dividend, ARP, CRSP, MURB, etc; developers became ‘addicted’ to government programs.

2. What are some potential solutions put forward by others?

• Provincial/municipal subsidy programs
• Reduction in municipal DCC’s, CAC’s, etc.
• Reduction in Development and Building Permit Fees
• Deferment of property taxes for specific periods of time;
• Density bonusing;
• Inclusionary zoning;
• Offer city-owned lands/ schools, etc. for sale or lease for rental housing;
• Allow laneway housing to create rental units;
• Reconsider conversion and demolition policies;
• Reduction/modification of certain standards: eg: parking, sprinklers in basement suites;
• Allow legalized secondary suites in multi-family buildings;
• Require developers to pay into ‘affordable housing fund’,etc.
• Levy business/property tax on empty units
• Increased demolition tax ($20,000 instead of $1,000)
• Allow site remediation as an offset against property taxes
• Creation of a City housing department or Community Housing Trust;
• Mandate the development of rental housing as part of other types of development;
• Create ‘rental zones’
• Get the federal government to eliminate GST
• Get CMHC to revise mortgage insurance premiums
• Allow relocatable modular affordable housing as an temporary/interim use with property tax ‘holiday’

3. What I think should be done?
• The city should allow density bonuses for projects that remain rental for 20 years or longer;
• The city should accelerate rezonings and development approvals for purpose built rental;
• The city should relax both parking, and minimum unit sizes;
• The city could offer certain lands for affordable rental housing on a preferential sale/lease basis;
• the city might consider allowing relocatable modular housing as affordable rental housing, with a property tax holiday;
• The city should accelerate approval of laneway housing, and reconsider some of the requirements that may increase the cost and decrease affordability;
• HOWEVER, the city should NOT start to offer property tax relief, reduced DCC’s, permit fees, etc. since it is likely going to be too expensive, cumbersome to administer, this brings in the question of equity, and the market is ready to build market rental housing anyway;
• Furthermore, this simply exacerbates the historic problem of government ‘intervention’ in rental housing;

For more information, contact Michael Geller 778 997 9980


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