New Housing Policies May Have Dramatic Benefits

Vancouver Housing Affordability is like the weather - everybody complains about it, but nobody does anything about it! The City of Vancouver now appears to be serious about promoting and facilitating housing affordability, especially by encouraging construction of hundreds, even thousands of units of new, for "profit," market rental housing units. The Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability Final Report (Nov 19/12) and the City’s Rental 100 Secured Market Rental Policy (May 15/12) propose intriguing policy guidelines and action plans offering tangible incentives to vastly increase the feasibility of private, profitable, “rental only” development projects. Many of these opportunities will allow significantly increased densities in neighbourhoods currently single family and duplex zoned, as well as reducing the parking requirements, and eliminating Development Levies for qualifying projects. The City also promises to streamline and cut much red tape in the application process, and to take steps to provide more “certainty” and “timeliness” as to the outcome/approval for developers’ applications. Here are some of the major features of these initiatives:

Rental 100: This program offers incentives for projects which create secured market rental housing, including:

Reduced Parking for qualifying developments, the Parking Bylaw reduces parking standards & allows substitution of car share services.

DCL Waivers where 100% of the residential development is rental, Development Cost Levies can be eliminated – a saving of up to $12.50/sq.ft.

Additional Floor Area - a dramatic benefit allowing re-zoning for qualifying properties. In Commercial Areas (“C” Zonings) possible increases to up to 6 stories. In RT Zonings along busy streets, possible increases from current .60 & .75 FSR up to RM-4N levels of 1.45 FSR. For example; a RT-5 property on a 50’x125’ lot, currently redevelop-able to 3-4 new strata units with total floor area of 4685 sq.ft. might achieve a floor area of 9,060 sq.ft. & 8–12 rental units under the revised rules - and the developer might also save $113,000 in waived DCL fees. For qualifying C-2 properties, the numbers are even more dramatic.

Affordable Housing Task Force: In addition to adopting many incentives of the Rental 100 program, including parking relaxations and DCL waivers, the Task Force also proposed the following: Expand the Laneway House Program: to include all Single Family zones, and to consider allowing Laneway Houses in Duplex and RT zones.

More Secondary Suites: Require all new single family houses to be built “suite ready”, and to allow secondary suites in ground oriented strata titled duplexes, town houses and row houses.

Increased Density in Residential Areas: For 100% rental developments located within 1.5 blocks of major arterials, the City will consider rezoning to allow multi-unit Row and Stacked Townhouses etc. of up to 3.5 stories. For properties (including residential single family) fronting on busy streets which are well served by transit, and within 500 meters of neighbourhood & local shopping centers, the City may allow rezoning allow mid-rise developments of up to 6 stories. These projects will dramatically change and re-vitalize their neighbourhoods as well.

The New Affordability Proposals also include policies to promote non-profit & co-housing projects, renew and replace existing housing co-operatives, and utilize land currently owned by the City to create innovative, affordable housing options. For many owners, the new incentives could increase the value of their properties and allow them to reap the benefits of Vancouver’s forward thinking policies-a genuine win-win.

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