Proposed “Affordable Home Ownership Pilot Program” will not make Vancouver housing affordable

ElizabethMurphyIn reference to a topic at City Council today (speakers will be heard this afternoon), we recently wrote City staff propose major changes to Interim Rezoning Policy: In effect, massive upzoning by stealth. This is a crucial topic for the life of Vancouver. City Council is considering an update to the “Interim Rezoning Poicy” adopted in 2012. 

Urban affairs commentator Elizabeth Murphy wrote in the Vancouver Sun in 2012 that the “New policies will not make Vancouver housing affordable.” Today she says that what she wrote then is still completely applicable to the program being considered today. Now in April 2016 we can see that she was right: we have seen increased inflationary land speculation, which is the main cause of the affordability crisis in Vancouver, and existing older affordable rentals have been at risk of demolition

Mainstream media coverage of the new proposal, including the CBC, has failed to cover the impacts of the rezonings being proposed, choosing mainly to repeat the content of the staff report. 

Rezoning concepts from Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Task Force on Housing are more likely to put existing older units at risk of demolition

By Elizabeth Murphy, Special to The Vancouver Sun

Below re some bullet points of her article. Go to her site for the full text.

Map by: courtesy , Stephen Bohus BLA – (Originally submitted to the Sun but not published.) The City of Vancouver’s identified “arterials” and projected 100 meter potential transition zones of 3.5 storeys for the Interim Rezoning Policy that will allow up to 20 projects.

    • Improving housing affordability and building rentals are important priorities. However, rezoning policies resulting from the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability will not provide affordable housing. The policies will instead increase inflationary land speculation, which is the main cause of the affordability crisis in Vancouver, and will put existing older affordable rentals at risk of demolition.

  • Vision’s Mayor and Council approved the city-wide rezoning policies on October 3. They were immediately implemented without any public consultation on these specific initiatives. (The policies were opposed by Councillors Carr, Affleck and Ball after Carr’s motion to delay for public consultation was voted down by Vision.)
  • This reckless approach demonstrates an absence of understanding of the complex issues at stake. Mayor Gregor Robertson is continuing Sam Sullivan’s NPA policies despite election promises to the contrary. Robertson’s current rezoning policy is essentially Sullivan’s EcoDensity rebranded falsely as an affordability initiative.
  • … Former mayor Gordon Campbell, and later BC Housing, tried demonstration projects for purchase below market housing. The idea didn’t work then and is less likely to work now.
  • Twenty per cent below current market prices for multi-family new construction is approximately the same cost for a unit in an already existing older building without the same restrictions. 
  • … Projects will also be considered if fronting “on arterials that are well served by transit and within close proximity (i.e. a five-minute walk or 500 metres) of identified neighbourhood centres and local shopping areas, mid-rise forms up to a maximum of six storeys.”
  • The staff’s written report to Council contained no map, and no definition of neighbourhood centre and local shopping areas.
  • It was only under pressure that a map (an incomplete one at that) was presented to the meeting. The City’s map interprets “arterials” to be not only commercial streets, but also many streets that are purely residential, some even without transit. The “transition zones” were not identified on the map, nor were the areas where proposals would be accepted for 6 storey buildings. The Vancouver Sun later showed a map that added the transition zones of 100 meters but not showing the six storey areas. This map was confirmed accurate for potential transition zones by staff at the City’s Oct. 17 information session.
  • Although the policy is limited initially to only 20 projects, it is expected that additional applications would continue to be approved. Even limited to 20 projects there will be major impacts on land costs, character, and livability on the surrounding properties, while setting precedents for other sites.
  • Many of the areas this new policy puts under development pressure have existing older more affordable multi-family space, including apartments, conversion dwellings, secondary suites, duplexes, triplexes, rooming houses and infill. Most of the heritage buildings and existing rentals have no protection from demolition.
  • Anticipated population growth could instead be housed by adaptive reuse of existing older buildings and new infill where appropriate. It is more sustainable and affordable to reuse existing old-growth wood-frame buildings than to replace them with new construction that requires many forests and other resources to be harvested.
  • Additional major new construction should be concentrated in specific areas determined through a comprehensive neighbourhood process, not scattered everywhere across the city.
  • Existing zoned capacity needs to be evaluated in context with future growth before significant changes in zoning should be considered.

Elizabeth Murphy is an urban affairs commentator. She was a former property development officer for the City of Vancouver and former senior development officer for BC Housing; and private sector project manager.


Oct. 3, 2012 meeting:


 Staff presentation map 2012:


 Murphy Sun article 2012:

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