Vancouver City Councillor

Category — Housing

A rent increase tsunami? Not because of Vancouver’s rental protection rules

According to rental market real estate experts David and Mark Goodman, the only things standing between Vancouver tenants and a rental wonderland of affordable new housing are Vancouver’s rental replacement bylaws that protect the city’s stock of older rental housing. They’re wrong.

These rules, originally implemented by the NPA and continued by subsequent councils, were designed to ensure a rental unit was replaced by another rental unit whenever new construction was proposed. (The current council is awaiting staff recommendations to further tighten this protection.)

These bylaws are doing a good job of protecting the city’s older rental stock from destruction. If you want to see the alternative, look no further than Burnaby, where condominium towers are mowing down older rental around Metrotown.

The city’s invaluable older rental stock, where most lower cost units are located, is further protected by community and city zoning rules.

But the Goodmans, pointing to big 20 percent rent increases when units are vacated by current tenants, say shortage of new rental is building a potential rent increase tsunami that can only be resolved by replacing existing rental with much larger new rental buildings. They’re furious at the claim a rental building has been rejected by the city that would have replaced 16 units with 80. [Read more →]

July 28, 2015

Air BnB share of Vancouver’s rental market: 3,473 units and growing

Short-term renters had 3,473 Vancouver Air BnB listings to chose from June 1, up sharply from the 2,901 available in November, according to impressive new analysis of the “sharing economy” phenomenon in our city just released by SFU urban studies graduate student Karen Sawatsky.

These new numbers, carefully set out by Sawatsky here, are bound to trigger controversy on an issue that has raged for several years in San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. A problem here? It’s difficult to be sure, but it seems likely these numbers are more than big enough to worsen vacancy rates, particularly for two and three-bedroom units.

Sawatsky had her suspicions, as outlined in the Tyee last year. Now she’s produced the facts to underline her concern.

June 22, 2015

The real estate market: when should “character” be saved, when should it be “monetized?”

When it comes to neighbourhood redevelopment, should we demolish and replace? Renovate and expand? Or demolish and expand?

It’s hard to say, as demonstrated by this week’s column by Kerry  Gold, the Globe and Mail’s hard-working and thoughtful BC real estate writer, who this weekend hailed a project in which an historic 4,600-foot North Vancouver craftsman home was “redeveloped, densified and monetized.”

(The quote is from a subhead in the print edition which is not in the online version, but it captures the essence of the story.)

The old Marshall homestead at 1340 Delbruck Ave., a neighbourhood landmark, no longer exists, of course. In its place: three “ultrasleek, contemporary homes” that netted more than $6 million.

Yet in a recent post on her blog, where Gold often expands on her newspaper column, she highlighted the destruction of character homes, usually replaced by much larger modern homes of less character. “No doubt, a lot of perfectly good, well-designed, stylish homes are winding up in the landfill,” she wrote, “in favour of this drive for huge housing.” Another problem with this outcome, in Gold’s eyes: no increase in density, just a home for a home.

In March, she noted “that it’s an ongoing media story that homeowners don’t want heritage protection or zoning that would interfere with their property values. I’d like to put this belief to the test. I know there are a few that feel this way, but I’m guessing the majority would opt for quality of life over and above a ridiculous future resale value.”

Would they? Or would they prefer, as did the subjects of yesterday’s column, to subdivide and cash out, regardless of the character home now standing? Vancouver city council is seeking to find the right balance, but as Gold’s coverage demonstrates, that’s easier said than done.

June 14, 2015

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.

June 14, 2015