Vancouver City Councillor

Category — Housing

New CMHC survey shows rents rising, vacancies falling as tenants face tightening market

Thanks to Tom Durning, of the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, for forwarding this gloomy CMHC update on Vancouver’s rental housing market: rising rents and falling vacancies are creating a housing crunch for tenants.

Although Vancouver saw more than 200 new units completed last year, rising migration, a strong economy and the high cost of home ownership all combined to reduce rental vacancies.

A key finding of the CMHC study: the region’s new jobs tend to be lower-paying, underlining the “affordability” advantage of rental. It is remains much less expensive to rent a one or two-bedroom apartment than to buy one, despite low interest rates.

This all adds up to a heavy work agenda for the new Renters Advisory Committee approved by council yesterday, to be chaired by Councillor Tim Stevenson.

December 17, 2014

NPA pledge to kill Vision’s Rental 100 would be just in time to miss emerging revival of rental construction

Vancouver’s David and Mark Goodman, veteran observers of the rental real estate sector, say last month’s Canadian Apartment Rental Investment Conference confirmed the widespread industry view that Canada is poised at last for a revival in rental apartment construction.

What’s driving the revival? According to Goodman, it’s precisely the kind of programs Vancouver has pioneered with Rental 100, the program the NPA’s Kirk Lapointe has pledged to kill if he’s elected Mayor.

Here’s Goodman:

Recognizing at last that very little purpose-built rental stock has been added over the last four decades, cities and suburbs have been relaxing fixed municipal charges, providing density and height bonuses, reducing parking requirements and allowing for smaller suite sizes. (Emphasis added.)

Demand for these new buildings among investors and tenants alike appears almost limitless, while low financing and mortgage rates provide strong incentives for construction.

Given sharply escalating condo prices, many potential buyers are instead turning to new purpose-built rentals that feature all the modern and elegant amenities while providing today’s discerning tenants new found financial flexibility.

Normally residing either in condo rentals or in aging 50-year-old structures devoid of amenities, tenants are now seeing the clear advantages of the newer purpose-built rentals, where they may enjoy superior caretaking and management, party rooms, gyms or pools and a sense of community, without the risk of being dislodged by condo owners.

Only Vancouver, of all the Metro municipalities, has a program like Rental 100 to support the expansion of this critical source of less-costly housing, although New Westminster has been developing its own version.

Mayor Gregor Robertson has pledged to continue Rental 100, committing to seek 1,000 new rental units annually. Given the improving economics of rental, this goal may be too low. But if Kirk Lapointe is elected, we’ll go backwards — and miss this positive change altogether.

October 21, 2014

BC Housing’s “transfer of assets” creating wave of concern in non-profit housing sector

BC Housing’s sudden announcement Oct. 3 that it will sell its leased land to non-profit organizations operating housing on its sites is causing a wave of concern in the affordable housing sector, particularly at two Vancouver locations already out for “expressions of interest.”

City manager Penny Ballem told council today the city has found a “paucity of information,” on the new program, despite learning that two important sites in the city — Stamp’s Landing in Strathcona and Nicholson Tower in the West End — are the subject of “request for expressions of interest” that have a November deadline.

That means these two valuable locations, each capable of significant redevelopment, face an uncertain future.

In response to questions I raised at the end of the council meeting, Ballem said city staff were working hard to pull together more information and any proposed city actions would be brought back before council.

In the meantime, the province is preparing to offer more than 300 non-profits across BC the chance to take over the leased land as “fee simple” property through a purchase made possible by a mortgage from BC Housing. [Read more →]

October 14, 2014

Multi-unit apartment renos getting “ramped up scrutiny” in wake of 1168 Pendrell eviction battle

City of Vancouver staff will “ramp up scrutiny” of building renovation applications for multi-unit apartment buildings, says City Manager Penny Ballem, to ensure the changes are not “under-the-radar attempts to displace long-term tenants.”

Ballem was responding to questions I put to her in council today in the wake of the apparent attempted eviction of long-standing tenants at 1168 Pendrell, where a new owner has issued a blizzard of tenant notices, including eviction notices while seeking to make further renovations at a building just recently upgraded.

Although the city welcomes landlord upgrades and improved maintenance, there is increasing evidence some upgrades are a cover for conversion to short-term rental or eviction.

In the face of this risk, Ballem said the city has established a cross-department team to monitor large building renovations to “oversee what has been submitted and what is actually happening.”

Where a landlord has plans that could result in dislocation, the city team will “vet the plans and encourage the applicant to provide a tenant relocation plan,” Ballem said.

The goal, she said, is to “avoid unnecessary dislocation.” (In some cases, tenants must relocate during renovation for health and safety reasons.)

These measures are in addition to a range of initiatives to support tenants, including a new advisory position to assist tenants in making submissions to the province’s Residential Tenancy Branch, which regulates rental properties.


September 16, 2014