Affordable Housing—how to get what we need
Housing affordability is the most complex and confounding issue facing our city, meriting some extra explanation about how we got here and how TEAM for a Livable Vancouver will address the many issues.
We recently announced the launch of a $500-million capital expenditure program to provide thousands of new homes over the four-year term. A majority TEAM-led city council will:
- Build at least $500 million of the affordable housing we need: Instead of depending on trickle downs from the private sector and potential senior government programs, a TEAM-led Council will take the lead in developing thousands of affordable family homes on leased city-owned lands. This will create truly affordable family homes more quickly while generating long term returns to the city for an ongoing stream of affordable homes. Private sector and non-profit partners and senior governments will be encouraged to participate on the city’s terms, to capture their significant knowledge and experience, but lands and projects will remain city owned to provide the financial foundations for long term growth in our city’s affordable housing. Vancouver citizens will get to decide on this initiative in advance, as required by law.
This initiative is necessary because the existing City Hall is largely responsible for the Affordable Housing Crisis in Vancouver. This is the Vision legacy—starting in 2009 and continuing to this day, our city government has diverted millions of dollars in Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) received from developers in exchange for upzoning certain properties in order for them to build high-rise housing that few Vancouverites can afford.
This money was intended to fund parks, community centres and other amenities for a growing city. Instead, this money has been added to the city’s general revenues in order to fund an ever-expanding list of “Council Priorities” as well as responsibilities downloaded from senior levels of government. Meanwhile basic city services have been neglected and community facilities have deteriorated. A majority TEAM-led city council will:
- Stop the sale of zoning, which just increases the cost of all land, including neighbouring lands and their older but serviceable buildings currently housing a majority of city renters.
- Return CACs to fund neighbourhood needs. Where CACs are needed because new or improved community facilities are needed near new development, assign those monies to what the community needs, not to general revenues or “special” projects.
This City Council has rezoned more than 250 parcels of land during its tenure, yet costs to rent or own a home have dramatically increased. A majority TEAM-led city council will:
- Repeal the Broadway Plan and the Vancouver Plan. The Broadway Plan affects almost 500 blocks of the city, affecting 20-25% of the city’s rental housing, most of it low and mid-rise. This affordable housing may all be razed in favour of housing too expensive for most Vancouver residents. Instead, existing residents will be evicted, then offered much smaller apartments at much higher rents three or more years later. The Vancouver Plan is the Broadway Plan written over every other block, every other neighbourhood of the city. A TEAM majority on Council will repeal these flawed plans as first orders of business.
TEAM has thought about how best to accommodate the future growth of the city. Although city staff have refused to do the work or provide the numbers, TEAM’s many volunteer experts in architecture, urban design and planning have identified many ways the existing zoning in the city can accommodate tens of thousands of new homes, addressing both pent up demand and realistic population growth. It’s called existing zoned capacity, and includes secondary suites, laneways, duplexes and the denser forms of development already permitted in the city. A majority TEAM-led city council will:
- Identify the city’s existing zoned capacity for housing and prioritize those lands for future development, instead of a pox of spot rezonings all over the city and the pervasive destruction of the Broadway Plan and Vancouver Plan.
“Yes,” you ask, “but it takes so long to get permission to renovate, restore or add to housing at any scale.” TEAM’s candidates for office have heard that in every neighbourhood of the city.
The current City Council and its Vision Vancouver predecessors have not only refused to meaningfully address the time and cost of virtually all permitting, they have instead hired hundreds of new management staff, resulting in dramatically higher direct permitting costs together with ever extended permitting times, stretching days into months and months into years. The permitting process now comprises up to 30% of the finished cost of residential construction. A majority TEAM-led city council will:
- Reduce the time and cost of every permit in the city. We will engage communities, residents and small businesses and their representatives as well as developers, designers and builders in order to identify and resolve bottlenecks on an urgent basis. We know we can reduce years to months, months to days. And we will continue this process so long as we are in office.
The building bylaws used to govern construction in Vancouver are the most complex in British Columbia, running to thousands of pages. In the 1970s most housing construction throughout Canada was regulated by a 200-page small format manual. Construction requirements to realistically address climate and other newer requirements for housing have certainly expanded past 200 pages, but not by tenfold. A majority TEAM-led city council will:
- Simplify the codes and bylaws for residential construction. Tapping into design profession and construction business expertise, we will spearhead development of a Vancouver Housing Bylaw that always maintains public safety while balancing energy and environmental considerations, favouring lower cost wood-frame construction and mass timber construction for mid-rise homes.
“All fine,” you are saying, “but how will voters know this is for real, especially the things we experience like the extent of new development, time frames and permitting fees?”
A majority TEAM-led city council will:
- Make housing activity in the city transparent to its citizens. To assist our efforts on your behalf, we have already developed several aspects of what we call our Housing Dashboard, whereby we know more about housing development in the city than most city staff and politicians. It’s not that hard to inform citizens on a real time basis about what’s proposed, what’s in process and what’s under construction in any neighbourhood of the city—you just need the will to make it your priority, as TEAM will.
TEAM for a Livable Vancouver is committed to maintaining our existing affordable housing and adding new supply where reasonable to address pent up demand and realistic population growth. Our eight steps are solutions that work.