City of Vancouver hopes developers buy into Rental 100

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Mike Howell
Van. Courier

Do you get as excited about amendments to city bylaws as I do?

Didn’t think so.

But if you’re a renter, or looking for a place to rent, you might want to jump on the City of Vancouver’s website and check out what’s new on the rental front.

A staff report going before council this week follows up on a program city council adopted back in June 2009 that offered incentives for developers to encourage construction of “affordable market rental housing.”

Yes, I know, the descriptor “affordable” seems like an oxymoron in this city.

I’ll get to that in a sec.

First, some more background on the program, which was commonly referred to as STIR — Short Term Incentives for Rental program. STIR ended December 2011, with 1,330 units of “affordable” market rental housing built in 19 buildings.

Incentives to developers under the program included building fewer parking spots, bonus density through rezoning, waiving development cost fees and speeding up processing to get the housing built.

Now the program has essentially evolved as Rental 100, but with a major proposed amendment: Developers interested in the program will have to build 100 per cent rental housing instead of mixing in rental units with private units.

“[The change] is supported by the key learning from the review of the STIR program, that City incentives are more effective and provide better value when applied to 100 per cent rental projects versus mixed residential projects,” said the staff report authored by Chief Housing Officer Mukhtar Latif.

And here’s another reason city staff wants to go this way: “These amendments to the [development cost levy] bylaws would also address a legal petition filed in the B.C. Supreme Court by the West End Neighbours, which challenges the City’s current process for determining eligibility for [waiving development cost fees] for affordable rental housing.”

The petition challenges the city manager’s authority to select which developers are eligible for development cost fees to be waived. The petition also argues the present bylaws don’t adequately define the definition of “affordable.”

According to the staff report, the amendments will address these issues.

Now to what the city defines as affordable rents under the bylaw amendments…

Fees will be waived for developments where the agreed upon average rents for initial occupancy do not exceed the following specified rents by more than 10 per cent:

  • $1,443 per month for a studio unit.
  • $1,517 per month for a one-bedroom.
  • $2,061 for a two-bedroom.
  • $2,743 for a three-bedroom

The report points out lower rents at some of the STIR projects, including $770 for a studio unit at a soon-to-be-developed complex at 4320 Slocan St. A one-bedroom will go for $1,020 and a two-bedroom for $1,455.

Downtown is pricier. At 1401 Comox St., a studio will rent for $1,040, a one-bedroom for $1,340 and a two-bedroom for $1,890.

A three-bedroom will go for $2,520. A studio apartment at 1142 Granville St. rents for $1,250 per month.

So will developers still be enticed to build under the new program?

“There are currently 200 units approved and 460 units in the application process, and staff have had additional inquiries for about 15 projects with approximately 1,000 rental units,” the report said.

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