Local pressures stifling rental housing across North America

Thanks to Tom Durning of TRAC for pointing out this reflection on the struggle cities are facing across North America to build new rental stock.

Mayor Gregor Robertson’s decision to defer consideration of the proposed new rental tower at 1401 Comox, pending consultation with West End residents, was the right one, but postpones for a long time the possible construction of more than 100 new rental units.

Randy Helten, one of the West End activists who has signed up thousands of neighbours on a petition against the building says the opposition has nothing to do with rental. But many early critics of this project and another on Bidwell, with about 26 rental units, aimed much of their fire at this council’s Short Term Incentive for Rental program, which delivered on a key campaign promise.

Now comes news that the city’s Urban Design Panel turned thumbs down on a proposed design for PCI’s Marine Gateway on the Canada Line, requiring a slimmer tower. The revised plan shows the number of residential units cut from 577 to 440, eliminating the rental component.

Both Comox and Marine Gateway would need a rezoning decision at public hearing to secure final approval and it’s impossible to forecast how those decisions might turn out. So far, however, Vancouver’s experience is depressingly similar to that of other cities hoping to build a more diverse, sustainable housing stock.