Vancouver City Council Approves 6-Storey Rental Housing Policy on Mainstreets
The last Vancouver City Council meeting in 2021 saw the approval of the current city council’s largest rental housing policy to date, allowing for the construction of more multi-family rental housing across the city.
The marathon public hearing for the Secure Rental Policy (PRS) began in early November 2021, with city council hearing from speakers for several days. City council deliberated and made its decision on policy Tuesday night, approving the SRP by a 10-1 vote, with TEAM Councilor Colleen Hardwick in opposition.
“Conseil, this is a defining moment for us. This city is suffering. The number one issue on everyone’s mind next to COVID is housing and has been for years, ”said Mayor Kennedy Stewart.
“The audience has been very well exposed to this… The overwhelming support is for this to happen. “
The streamlined policy allows the city government to use rental housing zoning – previously granted by the provincial government – to allow low and mid-rise rental apartment buildings in C-2 commercial districts on thoroughfares. Essentially, such projects wouldn’t need to go through the lengthy rezoning process, and they can follow the same existing process to build a new four-story condominium.
These rental housing buildings overlooking major highways can reach six floors, provided that at least 20% of the residential floor area is dedicated to below-market rental housing or 100% social housing. In addition, six-story buildings on Zoning C-2 must have at least 35% of family-sized units (two bedrooms or more), and structures must be designed to a passive house green building standard or be conform to other green buildings. Strategies. For five-storey construction forms on the same sites, 100% market rental housing is permitted.
In the two five- and six-storey construction options on the C-2 zoning, the ground floor must be dedicated to retail businesses and restaurants in order to improve and ensure the continuity of shopping districts, while at the same time offering new residents greater proximity to more businesses and services within walking distance.
Under this policy, rental properties up to six storeys would also be permitted in low density residential zoning along arterial roads, provided that at least 20% of the residential area is devoted to below market rental housing. . Alternatively, the policy offers the option of 100% social housing.
In addition, 100% additional rental density of up to four storeys would be allowed to face local streets immediately on either side of arterial roads.
While this is the city hall’s most important rental housing policy for 2018-2022 to date, the supply of new housing it could potentially generate is relatively modest. City staff predicted that the SRP could help catalyze 4,700 purpose-built secure rental units over 10 years, or an average of 470 rental units per year.
“I don’t think this policy is a quick fix, I think it’s gradual. We have large-scale buildings that will include several hundred apartments all at once on one site, ”said independent advisor Sarah Kirby-Yung. “But gradually, it’s good because it all adds up and it’s another tool in the toolbox. “
While the SRP covers the entire city, it does not cover areas that have their own recent community plans, such as the Cambie Corridor Plan, Marpole Community Plan, Grandview-Woodland Plan, the Downtown Vancouver Peninsula. and the next Broadway plan.
The planning process for the development of the SRP has been underway for over two years.
“This is a step in the right direction to resolve the housing crisis,” said Green Party adviser Adriane Carr.
Green Party Councilor Pete Fry said, “I know there is a story that suggests it’s too much, too soon. I do not believe this is the case.
“I don’t think six-story apartments will destroy communities. In fact, I think this could be the key to revitalizing some of our retail sectors which could use more of an injunction from the people and the buyers. “
At the start of the meeting, Hardwick attempted to interrupt deliberations and return the SRP to town staff, which effectively put him aside, but was strongly reprimanded by the mayor and other councilors.
“The Council should have the courage of its convictions, whatever they may be, on this report, and vote accordingly on whether or not it wishes to support it, based on the perceived merits of the report and of what he heard from the public and how they assess that information, ”Kirby-Yung said.
“Our term on the board is four years. This process took over half of that. The previous reference to the plan was a year old … and I actually think we are rightly criticized for not having moved the housing policy forward. Not everyone agrees on the policy, but at some point we have to make a decision and stand up for something.
Several amendments proposed by the SRP advisers were introduced, but were rejected by the majority of the council.
Fry supported an amendment by Green Party Councilor Wiebe to impose a nominal fixed rate community amenity contribution (CAC) of $ 3.01 per square foot on existing residential zoning districts under the SRP. He felt that CACs would help finance new benefits and public amenities in areas with growing populations, but these charges are normally only applied to social housing, not rental housing.
NPA adviser Melissa De Genova challenged the merits of mandating a CAC on rentals, saying it could impact the already difficult pro forma of rental housing projects in the market, and that these additional costs would be passed on to tenants. It would also negate part of the catalytic impact the SRP is supposed to have: steer developers and developers away from building condominiums to rental housing.
Instead, city council approved an amendment directing city staff to explore possible options for applying fixed rate CACs to market rental projects.
City Council also rejected COPE Councilor Jean Swanson’s amendment proposal that the SRP not apply to the Knight Street corridor. During her tenure, she repeatedly raised concerns about the high levels of air pollution on Knight Street due to the volumes of freight trucks reaching the port and the impacts on the health of residents living next door. of this corridor.