Reaction to delay in Beach Towers addition shows growing awareness of need to confront rental crisis

Reaction to last week’s decision by Devonshire Properties to postpone construction of 133 new rental units at Beach Towers reflected a growing understanding of the need to build more rental in the city, a key objective of the city’s Rental 100 program.

That understanding has been slow coming for some people, despite impossibly low vacancy rates. That’s why council has committed to work for 1,000 new rental units in the city annually.

The Beach Towers units would be added to more than 600 on the site since the 1970s and the loss of the new units would be felt.

With 50 percent of the population renting — up to 80 percent in the West End — even all-out opponents of the city’s rental initiatives tried to shrug off the possible loss of the new units as likely to be offset by other construction proposed for the West End. (I have yet to see those concerned ever support any development at council, particularly rental.)

Devonshire clearly left the door open to resume the project at some point in the future.

Meanwhile, the loss of rental elsewhere in the region is sparking protest in cities like Burnaby. As an OECD report on Canada’s rental stock pointed out last year, condo rental units won’t do the job and condo construction may aggravate the problem.

That’s why action to protect existing rental — as well as supportive policies to build new rental at every level of government — is critical to solve the rental crisis.