(Epilogue: City Council approved the staff recommendations, with slight changes. See minutes and video at this link (Vision and NPA voted to support the amended motion, with one vote (Green) opposed. Councillor Adriane Carr wanted to see public consultation happen prior to approving the staff recommendations. We will do further coverage of this important topic.)
The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) has written today to Vancouver’s Mayor and Council requesting that Council instruct staff to withdraw its report entitled “Affordable Home Ownership Pilot Program,” slated for April 20, 2016, and send it back for more consultation and more work.
Download or read the letter on the CVN website (http://coalitionvan.org/letters/cvn_letter_council_affordable_home_ownership/). For convenience, we reproduce the text below.
This proposed Pilot Program is an amendment to the existing Interim Rezoning Policy for Increasing Affordable Housing Choices (IRP), which focused mainly on rentals. The new proposal is much more extensive.
The staff proposal shows many streets where permitted building heights would be increased to 3.5 storeys and/or up to 6 storeys. These areas, especially for 6 storeys, encroach into RS, RT and RM zones, putting heritage, character and older affordable rentals and owner-occupied units at risk of demolition. The staff proposal conflicts with the Heritage Action Plan and the Character House RS Review, both now in process. Obviously, there could be many unintended consequences. More independent analysis is needed to figure out if the policies would even achieve their goals.
It could probably be portrayed as an attempt to do a massive stealth upzoning of huge tracks of land in Vancouver, masquerading as “affordable housing.” We have seen similar cases of major land-use policies sprung upon the public in the past with no prior public consultation or notice. Some have resulted in significant controversy, including lawsuits with the City, forcing it to make modifications. The Short Term Incentives for Rental program is one example. It granted unlimited height and density increases to developers, in return for what was sold to the public as “affordable rentals” but included no specification of the rents that would be charged. Good policy making requires adequate time for public consultation, in order to identify the objectives of stakeholders, consider unintended consequences, and improve the policies before they are written into law.
People need to ask how such a report gets advanced to Council. The chief planner position is still vacant, filled temporarily by acting Director of Planning, Jane Pickering. Who is really driving this initiative?
This letter by CVN notes conflicts with the ongoing character building review and the established CityPlan Community Visions. Part of the map of affected areas extends into the Grandview-Woodland plan area, along Commercial Drive and East Hastings. That community is currently undergoing a community planning process. It is premature to consider significant upzoning now that will affect those processes.
Letter from CVN reproduced below:
April 18, 2016
City of Vancouver Council
Dear Mayor Gregor Robertson and Councillors,
Re: Affordable Home Ownership Pilot Program
While we support solving the housing affordability crisis, we are opposed to the goals of the Affordable Home Ownership Pilot Program in its present form. This staff report proposes making significant changes to the Vancouver Charter as well as major potential changes to land use in expanded areas tied to many arterials on a citywide basis without adequate public consultation. This raises major concerns.
We request that Council not approve in principle the goals of the Affordable Home Ownership Pilot Program, as described in this report. Instead, we suggest the following:
- Withdraw the report and refer it back to staff to include a robust consultation process with affected neighbourhoods based on collaboration:
- Include the approved CityPlan Community Vision directions, where they are in place, and which would be implemented on a local community basis;
- Complete the Heritage Action Plan and Character House RS Zoning Review first, before considering any proposed new or expanded pilot programs that will affect zoning;
- Remove proposed 6 storey and development projects in RS, RT and RM zones unless supported in local area plans; and
- Expand Rate of Change protection in C2 and RT zones to protect existing rentals.
Lack of process: This proposal has been brought forward without any community consultation or notification. Further, any anticipated future expansion of the program is proposed to require only development industry and related stakeholders being consulted and includes no requirement for community consultation. This is in contradiction of the city’s stated goals to create a more collaborative relationship with the community.
Location of development: The map included in the report (attached below) indicates significant areas where 3.5 storeys and/or up to 6 storeys of development could be located. These areas, especially for 6 storeys, as proposed encroach into RS, RT and RM zones, putting heritage, character and older affordable rentals and owner-occupied units at risk of demolition. It also conflicts with the Heritage Action Plan and the Character House RS Review that are in process.
This proposed Pilot Program is an amendment to an existing one, the Interim Rezoning Policy for Increasing Affordable Housing Choices (IRP). The existing program has mainly focused on rental projects.
Now that home ownership, mainly strata, is being focused on, and broader areas have been identified for development in this report, there will be increased developer attention and activity. Of further concern is that the previous requirements that pilot projects be located no less than 10 blocks apart appears to have been removed.
Many neighbourhoods have large site developments with potential to provide new multifamily ground oriented development, such as the Jericho Lands, without the loss of existing older rentals and character buildings. What best suits each area should be determined on an individual neighbourhood basis.
Affordability objectives: The economics of the proposed Charter changes will not reasonably increase affordability. The program is proposed to provide housing at 20% below market rate purchase values, but recent real estate prices are going up 15% to 25% in one year. Thus, new projects priced at last year’s already excessive prices, will still be too expensive to make any relevant improvements to affordability.
In some neighbourhoods, especially on the west side, building new ground oriented housing for families is very unlikely to be affordable as described in the report. Conversely it is anticipated that increased land use stimulated by this program would further inflate land values. Adaptively reusing existing character houses with secondary suites and infill is the most accessible way to build more affordable units both for owners and renters. Purpose-built secondary suite rental units also aid home ownership as mortgage helpers and provides much needed, low cost rental housing.
In conclusion: Again, we strongly advise Council not to approve the goals of the Affordable Home Ownership Pilot Program as proposed and instead make the changes described above.
On behalf of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods
Member Groups of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods
Arbutus Ridge Community Association
Arbutus Ridge/ Kerrisdale/ Shaughnessy Visions
Cedar Cottage Area Neighbours
Chinatown Action Group
Citygate Intertower Group
Community Association of New Yaletown
Crosstown Residents Association
Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council
Dunbar Residents Association
False Creek Residents Association
Grandview Woodland Area Council
Granville Burrard Residents & Business Association
Joyce Area Residents
Kitsilano-Arbutus Residents Association
Kits Point Residents Association
Marpole Oakridge Community Association
NW Point Grey Home Owners Association
Oakridge Langara Area Residents
Residents Association Mount Pleasant
Riley Park/South Cambie Visions
Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association
Strathcona Residents Association
Upper Kitsilano Residents Association
West End Neighbours Society
West Kitsilano Residents Association
West Point Grey Residents Association
From the report to Council for meeting dated April 20, 2014: Affordable Home Ownership Pilot Program http://council.vancouver.ca/20160420/documents/cfsc2.pdf
CityHallWatch has covered the Interim Rezoning Policy since day one, when we produced our own maps to show the implications of a couple lines buried in a staff report to Council in October 2012. It was only after we pointed out the implications that the media started covering the issues.
ALERT: CityHallWatch reveals impact zone of Mayor Task Force on Housing Affordability recommendations (Part I – upzoning to 3.5 storeys 100 m each side of arterial roads) https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/impact-zone-mayor-housing-task-force/
ALERT: New CityHallWatch maps reveal extent of citywide rezoning proposed by Mayor’s Task Force (Part 2 – upzoning to 6 storeys 500 meters from Neighbourhood Centres)