New program to encourage rental housing construction

There’s a new incentive program in Vancouver to encourage developers to build purpose-built rental housing.  There are some seemingly attractive aspects of this program but developers seem more focused on tidier short term profits and these are more quickly realized building condo towers.

Incentives under the new policy will likely be similar to those of the STIR program which included:

•  rental property assessment (on rental units only);
•  development cost levy waiver (on rental units only);
•  parking requirement reductions (on rental units only);
•  discretion on unit size;
•  increased density; and
•  expedited permit processing.

Whether this program will be enough to entice developers to build new rental units is a matter for debate. One thing is certain and that’s there is a shortage of affordable rental housing in this city.

Rize Alliance Development – Public Hearing for Mount Pleasant Tower Proposal

Figure A shows a rendering submitted by the developer. Figure B shows the virtual model created by the City. Figure C shows a rendering created by RAMP. Image courtesy of Openfile.ca

One of the most divisive proposed developments in Vancouver in a long time is currently being considered by Vancouver city council. The Rize Alliance Properties development at Kingsway and Broadway promises to radically change the area where Kingsway, Main and Broadway meet. An article from BC Business is in support of this development and offers some insight into the issues. The original development proposal was more aggressive at 26 stories but has since been scaled back to 19 stories following public opposition. Notice in the renderings above how the building height differs depending on which party it was created by and their particular interest. The rendering closest to reality is likely the one created by the City.

It seems to me that this location is an ideal place to increase density since it’s well-located close to public transportation along the Broadway corridor and is a walk or quick bus ride to two Skytrain lines. The anti-development types are unlikely to be satisfied with any proposal put forward but many Mount Pleasant residents are watching this one closely to see what the City will allow.

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How to Improve Housing Options in Metro Vancouver

First post of 2012 so it seems fitting to start with a list of ideas on how to increase housing options. This article appeared recently in the Vancouver Sun and the writer makes a number of useful, if perhaps optimistic, suggestions on how home ownership might be made more attainable in Metro Vancouver.

The simplest suggestion mentioned to implement would be encouraging and allowing higher density (innovative design and more compact units). This would increase opportunities for people to remain in urban areas without breaking the bank. The main hurdle here seems to be nearby neighbors who fear their property values will fall as a result of additional density being built close by.

Another idea presented relates to having municipalities reduce the charges and fees (development cost charges) they assess for granting building permits as this is a major cost. One would hope that savings here would trickle down to property buyers.

Finally, higher density developments should first be considered near good public transit and the requirements for minimum number of parking spaces per property should be abandoned in some instances.

So that’s the wish list. Do I think any of these are likely to happen any time soon? No, but dreams are healthy.

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Making the case for freehold townhomes

A recent story in the Vancouver Sun spells out the potential benefits and the reasons why BC has been slow in getting this going. It appears that the legal framework is lacking in BC (this type of ownership already exists in many provinces) and this seems due to multiple levels of government not wanting additional legal responsibility.

My question would be this: If it’s working in other provinces of Canada and other parts of the world why can’t it work here? It would seem that those other provinces allowing freehold townhomes should be consulted but that might require provinces talking to one another so don’t hold your breath.

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How Affordable Housing Makes a Greener Vancouver

Interesting article from BC Business today. Gets to the heart of the problem for people who work in Vancouver and would like to live in the city but can’t afford to. Having to commute from the ‘burbs is neither green nor does it improve quality of life. 

The focus on affordable housing in this town is skewed towards people at the lowest rung of the ladder while the majority in the middle see little focus on the affordability problems they face.

More density, looking at smaller spaces (most people these days would not opt for a “monster house” even if they could afford it – see photo), alternative forms of architecture and building more rental stock are all part of the solution. Examples include infill housing like laneway housing. Zoning and existing landowner inflexibility are major impediments to greater densification. This burden rests with all three levels of government – but will any of them act?

I welcome any questions you may have about selling or buying.
Feel free to comment here or contact me directly.

Vancouver’s Olympic Village – Worth $1400 per square foot?

According to a recent story in the Vancouver Sun, Olympic Village The Birds By Myfanwy MacLeodcondo prices are set to be slashed. The actual revised prices will be decided on by the receiver on January 15, 2011 and the units will then be put back on the market shortly thereafter. In May 2010, the original asking “price per square foot” for some of these units was a lofty $1400. Speculation suggests that the new asking price will be around $1000 per square foot. While a substantial reduction, is this enough of a decrease to lure buyers back to the project?

The bad press surrounding the workmanship on these buildings and the debacle regarding the City of Vancouver’s investment/involvement in the development have not helped. For better or worse, all of the residents of Vancouver have become stakeholders in this development.

The biggest barrier to achieving these luxury prices may well be the intermingling of social housing in this project. This has been a hot topic of late in Vancouver and it remains to be seen if buyers are willing to at once pay top dollar and live next door to individuals receiving social assistance. Stay tuned…