Senakw (Sen̓áḵw) development: Submission to Indigenous Services Canada from Kits Point Residents’ Association

 

Above: 2021 artistic rendering of Senakw. Credit: Revery Architecture/Westbank/Squamish First Nation.

Kits Point Residents’ Association (KPRA) has made a submission dated April 30, 2021, in response to an invitation by Indigenous Services Canada for public comments on the proposed Senaqw (Sen̓áḵw) development at the base of the Burrard Bridge.

According to the Daily Hive and The Globe and Mail in February 2021, the project at the south end of the Burrard Bridge would have 12 towers and 4 million square feet, with the tallest tower at 59 storeys. Media coverage of the past few years suggest that up to 12,000 people could live here. KPRA has been attempting to communicate with the parties on matters of concern for surrounding communities.

Privately-held Westbank Corp. (CEO Ian Gillespie), with about 40 other major projects in Vancouver including Oakridge, Vancouver House, Broadway Safeway (Broadway and Commercial), Joyce Precinct, as well as owner of Creative Energy with a monopoly on Vancouver’s district heating system downtown, is a silent 50% partner with the Squamish First Nation in this development. Although it is not clear how much of a role Westbank is playing in driving plans, Gillespie does have extensive experience in standard practices for urban planning and and developments in Vancouver. According to Business in Vancouver (11-Dec-2019), this project was expected to generate $20 billion in revenue over the next 120 years (to approximately the year 2140), to be shared equally with Westbank. BIV wrote that in exchange for a long-term lease of the property, Westbank will guarantee the loan required for the development and contribute the equity required. The project will not require a financial investment by the Squamish First Nation other than the land.

Excerpt from the concluding paragraph from KPRA: The potential for there to be significant adverse environmental effects occasioned by the Proposed Development is clear. In view of the unprecedented nature of this development in terms of its scale and location, we submit that ISC does not have the information it requires to make a determination of whether the Proposed Development is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, within the definitions of the Impact Assessment Act, until a Detailed Project Description is produced and made public and until the issues raised here have been investigated, reviewed and made the subject of meaningful community engagement and consultation.

Text of the submission follows:

Continue reading

Letter to City calls for better methods to include seniors in ‘Planning Vancouver Together’ consultations

Preamble: Below is a letter e-mailed from a Vancouver senior named Barbara to Mayor Kennedy Stewart, two councillors, and the planning department, regarding frustration with the City’s neighbourhood planning consultations, particularly, with a recent workshop on “Planning Vancouver Together: Complete, Connected Neighbourhoods” (https://shapeyourcity.ca/completeneighbourhoods). “Creating ‘complete, connected, and culturally vibrant neighbourhoods’ is a key goal of the City’s strategic Vancouver Plan,” says the promo material.

Above: Logo from the City of Vancouver’s “Planning Vancouver Together” program. Credit: CoV

 

We reprint Barbara’s letter first (with permission), and then further below offer some suggestions on how to create change, for any seniors wishing to help improve the situation.

**********

Now, here is Barbara’s letter, which relates to the “My City My Neighbourhood Mapping Workshop” (link) on April 28.

From: Barbara
Sent: April 29, 2021 2:51 PM
To: Neighbourhoods neighbourhoods@vancouver.ca; kennedy.stewart@vancouver.ca; adriane.carr@vancouver.ca; pete.fry@vancouver.ca
Subject: Re: My City, My Neighbourhood: Participatory Mapping Workshop TODAY!

I am writing to you today to give you feedback on my experience attempting to participate in My City, My Neighbourhood: Participatory Mapping Workshop yesterday. I am a senior and signed up for this activity as I feel I am part of a segment of our population that is not being heard by City Hall.

My experience reinforced this feeling. Firstly, I have some experience with computers, but definitely am not an expert. Secondly, I have participated in online meetings using Zoom and Google Meets successfully during Covid. The additional information to read beforehand was only sent to me on the day of the workshop around 9 am. Like other participants I assume, I found that difficult as timewise I had other commitments and not enough time to read and digest all the directions.

Continue reading

Neighbourhood groups query Council on major gaps in Broadway Plan consultation process

CityHallWatch has received a copy of the following May 3, 2021 letter from three neighbourhood associations to Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Council. It relates to one of the City of Vancouver’s several major planning processes currently underway. Intended to synergize with a multi-billion dollar Broadway Subway (for which digging has yet to begin and is slated to have its terminus at Arbutus, though boosters hope for another multi-billion dollar extension to UBC), the Broadway Plan (City link here) is being billed as a comprehensive 30-year area plan for neighbourhoods between Clark Drive and Vine Street (Mount Pleasant, Fairview, Kitsilano – see map). The planning/engagement (consultation page here) is purportedly in its final stages and currently slated to finish in just a matter of months, in late-2021. These groups are saying that neither the public nor Council have received adequate information. It will be up to City Council to give clear instructions to the City’s chief planner, Theresa O’Donnell (appointed to the role just last week), to make her department provide the critical information.

Photo: Vancouver City Council for 2018 to 2022. Left to right: Councillors Rebecca Bligh, Christine Boyle, Colleen Hardwick, Pete Fry, Adriane Carr, Mayor Kennedy Stewart (centre), Councillors Melissa De Genova, Jean Swanson, Michael Wiebe, Lisa Dominato, Sarah Kirby-Yung

 

The letter It is self-explanatory, but here is an excerpt from the conclusion: “The capital expenditure outlays required by the Broadway Plan and the larger Vancouver Plan will run into the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. No business, operating with budgets the size of the City of Vancouver, would undertake a planning exercise as a prelude to such major expenditures, without the benefit of all the facts… We hereby formally request Council ensure that the missing facts, data, assumptions, and details, which have been discussed in this letter, be publicly disclosed at least six months before any plan is delivered to council, to allow meaningful independent analysis to be performed, and conclusions drawn as to the implications for this Plan. It is hard to understand how recommendations to Council can be considered credible when there are such obvious gaps in the public engagement process. It will be equally hard for residents to understand how Council could consider a plan in the absence of such data.”

Map: Area covered by the Broadway Plan, from 1st to 16th Avenue, and from Vine to Clark.

**************

May 3, 2021

Dear Mayor Stewart and Councillors:

This letter is submitted on behalf of the Fairview/South Granville Action Committee, the Upper Kitsilano Residents Association and the Burrard Slopes Stakeholders Association, regarding the Broadway Plan.

While the [Broadway] plan is not currently before council, we have been involved in all phases thus far, and have identified several, serious concerns regarding the Phase 1 and 2 materials, and engagement processes.

After the vote on the 2538 Birch development, one Councillor said in a media interview that too much from the community came forward at the last minute. We certainly don’t think that that was true, but we want to convey our concerns regarding these matters to you now, so that you have the opportunity to inform yourselves well before any report or proposal comes before council.  Put simply, a defence of “had I only known” or “it’s too bad these points weren’t raised earlier” will not be an acceptable response from our elected representatives. 

Our concerns can be summarized in four broad areas:

1. The guiding principles and emerging directions for the plan.

2. The information gathering process.

3. Other factors requiring consideration when developing the plan.

4. Making Broadway a Great Street.

Below, and in the attached Appendix, we highlight serious concerns and painfully obvious gaps in the current information.

It is well-known that many people are concerned about the built form of development in Vancouver, and more specifically, want to know what size buildings are being contemplated for the Broadway Corridor. Will they be 10, 20, or 40-floor structures? We have seen two sets of engagement documents prepared by staff, completed countless questionnaires and surveys, and yet not one of the surveys included the simple question, “How tall do you think buildings in the Broadway Plan area should be?”

This fundamental omission is of deep concern and experience suggests one of two possible conclusions, neither of which is encouraging: (1) Staff has already made its mind up about the heights for the Broadway Plan area, or (2) Staff doesn’t care what the public thinks are appropriate heights.

Our concern is underscored by the fact that, at recent Phase 2 workshops, staff advised participants that Phase 3 of the engagement process would include specific height, density and 3D drawings of the area. This suggests to us that those decisions have already been made without public input.

Continue reading

International Noise Awareness Day, April 28: SILENCE! Today at 2:15 pm for one minute

Preamble: Many Vancouverites love their right to quiet. Surprise! Today is the 26th Annual International Noise Awareness Day! See press release from the Right to Quiet Society below.

Over the years, CityHallWatch has covered the issues of noise vs quiet a number of times. From the media you can clearly see that residents do love their quiet and have various concerns about various noise sources (traffic, parties, boats on the water, amplifiers and buskers, loud cars/trucks/motorcycles, leaf blowers, and more). We know that people do pay attention to the sound environment. Just yesterday, social media were ablaze within seconds after they heard two CF-18 fighter jets fly over Vancouver (see CBC article). More and more scientific research is coming out about the human health benefits of quiet and the ability to have access to natural sounds. And about the need for quiet for all forms of wildlife, even insects to survive and thrive in their ecosystems and lifecycles.

One of CityHallWatch‘s key issues is construction noise (e.g., “Demolition and construction impacts” and our “Demolition and Construction Impacts“) — just search for “noise” in our search tool. The city has the noise bylaw, but developers and construction sites often seem to get a free pass in terms of hours and decibels (see our YouTube video – Westbank project breaks 100 db. Warning – turn down your volume!). If we have one wish this year, it would be for the City of Vancouver to engage in serious discussions with the Urban Development Institute (industry lobby group) to look at how to reduce construction noise. In Japan, some construction sites have a public-facing noise meter on site, which makes it very transparent how much noise a site is producing, and real-time tracking via a website. (Potential opportunity for an app builder). We’d love to see that requirement for major projects in Metro Vancouver, with meters posted close to the machines. How about ratings for quiet neighbourhoods? Or a map of the best places to hear nature without human-caused disturbances? For noise affecting aquatic live, how about a hydrophone placed in English Bay with a real time meter online? If citizens become more aware of their right to quiet, improvements can be made. Tip: Your app store has many free noise meters for you to choose from.

Below is a press release from the B.C.-based Right to Quiet Society (quiet.org). Vancouver’s Elvira Lount is one of the directors. The website has many excellent resources for people who want to get involved and learn more. See bottom of this post for some links to the City of Vancouver relating to noise.

**********

Right to Quiet is proud to join participants around the world in celebrating the 26th Annual International Noise Awareness Day (INAD) on April 28, 2021. INAD has publicized the effects of harmful noise on hearing, health and quality of life since 1996. Partners promote this common goal through educational, legislative and social media initiatives, which include observing one full minute of silence at 2:15 p.m. in their local time zone (https://noiseawareness.org).

Another awareness needs attention. Taking its cue from renowned Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, the Society for Soundscape Awareness and Protection (SSAP) was founded in 1982; the name Right to Quiet emerged later. Solely supported by members, we have distributed hundreds of books and teaching packs to libraries and schools across British Columbia. Our efforts have led municipal and provincial authorities to establish quiet zones and ecological reserves designated free of anthropogenic noise, and progressive legislation such as construction-free Sundays and “quiet beach” policies in Metro Vancouver. These initiatives have influenced other Canadian jurisdictions to introduce similar policies.

Calls for help come from far and wide. They include unnecessary motor vehicle noise and various marine vessel noise issues affecting people across North America. The latter often involve overlap of multiple jurisdictions, which significantly complicates finding solutions.

Continue reading

It’s time for Vancouver to pause and pivot: Urban design and livability are an important part of sustainability, should not be sacrificed for expediency (Opinion by Elizabeth Murphy)

Captain George Vancouver outdoor statue by Italian-born artist Charles Marega, on north side of Vancouver City Hall. Photo: CityHallWatch

Preamble: This piece first appeared in the Vancouver Sun on August 22, 2020. CityHallWatch checked with Elizabeth Murphy and confirmed that her comments are still just as relevant as ever, now in April 2021. We publish it below with the author’s permission. We encourage readers who are in agreement with the points raised to bring them up in ongoing public consultations and surveys, and in communications with elected officials and City staff.

Many surveys are under way right now by the City of Vancouver (see “Shape Your City,” to name a few: Broadway Plan, Vancouver Plan, Complete Connected Neighbourhoods, Jericho Lands, Planning Vancouver Together (Housing), False Creek South Lands, Replacement of rental in commercial areas, Citywide parking permits, Regulation redesign), Translink (see “Engage Translink” for Transport 2050, and Millennium Line UBC Extension), and Metro Vancouver (consulting now on Metro 2050, aka Regional Growth Strategy, and jointly with Translink on Transport 2050).

Many points raised by Ms. Murphy are absolutely relevant right now, and everything is connected in one way or another. For the public to provide input and vote in an informed way, we need to have a comprehensive view. For policy makers to make good policy, they need correct/accurate/timely information from their staff, and should listen sincerely to an informed populace. We have taken the liberty to bold some of the most salient points below.

**********

It’s time for Vancouver to pause and pivot

Opinion: Urban design and livability are an important part of sustainability and should not be sacrificed for expediency. 

By Elizabeth Murphy

Vancouver Sun published date: Aug 22, 2020  https://vancouversun.com/opinion/op-ed/elizabeth-murphy-its-time-for-vancouver-to-pause-and-pivot

Dr. Bonnie Henry said at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown “this is our time to be kind, to be calm, and to be safe.” In contrast, the City of Vancouver carried on with an all-time record for controversial rezoning public hearings in the month of July [2020], sometimes multiple council meetings in a day, under virtual council with reduced democratic processes through the state of emergency provisions.

Meanwhile, recent data disclosed by city staff show that there has been more new dwellings produced than household growth since 2001, and that there are enough new projects in-application for the next decades of projected population growth to come. This shows there is no legitimate reason for the city’s current rush to rezone without proper planning. July rezonings included the most controversial public hearing for the 28 storeys at Birch and Broadway, with about 1,000 written submissions, including three petitions of thousands in opposition, and multiple days of speakers. 

Another controversial public hearing for rezoning all the C2 zones city-wide went multiple days, including hearing from speakers on a Friday night, which is generally avoided. Thankfully, a majority of council supported Coun. Adrian Carr’s amendment to refer the rezoning report to the Vancouver Plan process.

Rather than just implementing the arbitrary city-wide programs and policies of the previous Vision council that was voted out, it is about time that the new council reconsiders policy based on the new context and a new mandate.

A council-approved motion by Coun. Colleen Hardwick has done exactly that. It directed staff to provide data by July 31 for a recalibration this fall of the current housing targets.

From the data provided by staff, it confirmed the census population growth was about one per cent per year, or 5,500 people. At the census average of 2.2 persons per unit, that is 2,500 units per year or 25,000 units per decade. Compare this to the city’s current housing targets of 72,000 units per decade, at almost three times the actual census population growth rates.Also of interest is the staff admission that the housing targets are aspirational and not a reflection of anticipated population growth. In fact, previous census figures show that there have been more dwelling units than population growth for households, with thousands unoccupied that may be converted to rentals due to taxes and market shifts. Current projects in-application are already enough for decades in further population growth, with over 36,000 units, of which 28,000 are condos. This growth doesn’t include secondary suites, laneway, infill or duplexes. Or any existing zoned capacity.

Continue reading

Jericho Lands planning program: Online survey ends today (April 25)

Image: Location of Jericho Lands. Credit Google Maps from CoV website

The Jericho Lands is a 36-hectare (90-acre) site located in Vancouver’s West Point Grey neighbourhood and is bound by West 4th Avenue, Highbury Street, West 8th Avenue, and West Point Grey Park.

The Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations (collectively the MST Partnership) in 2014 formed a joint-venture partnership with the Canada Lands Company (CLC) to develop three sites across Metro Vancouver, including the 52-acre Jericho Lands East. In 2016 the MST Partnership acquired the adjacent Jericho Lands West property from the BC Government. The Jericho Lands is within the unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and sə̓lílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

An online survey by the City of Vancouver to guide a policy statement today (April 25) at midnight. Below are some comments and links to related reading. Here is the link to the City’s survey and updates page: https://shapeyourcity.ca/jericho-lands

This is a significant project for many reasons. To name a few, its size, the special partnership of First Nations, the site’s interconnections with planning for the surrounding area, connections with transportation and transit, and its role in housing potentially anywhere from 1,000 to 25,000 more people. Many developers and Translink have an eye on what is going on here, seeing it as a critical piece in their dreams for massive changes as part of a extension to UBC for the Millennium Line from the currently planned Arbutus terminus of the “Broadway Subway.” The section to Arbutus is purportedly expected to start running in 2025.) Translink this week just launched a new consultation on its dream of a subway extension to UBC, which would come with as-yet uncounted costs, and raise the hopes of developers (and speculators) all along the way.

From the City of Vancouver website:

We are looking for your feedback as we develop a policy statement for the Jericho Lands. … The Jericho Lands planning program is a comprehensive planning process which will help create a policy statement to guide future development of the site. The program is being developed at the request of the landowners, a joint venture partnership between the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh (MST) Partnership, and the Canada Lands Company (CLC). The policy statement will create a framework which will guide future redevelopment of the site and help create a new community that is sustainable, socially and culturally inclusive, and highly livable.

The planning program will explore options that address important priorities including:

  • Ways to advance our collective work toward reconciliation
  • Creating a complete community with a range of housing options with different income levels and tenures
  • Providing new housing within a walking distance of existing and future transit routes, including a potential SkyTrain extension to UBC
  • Providing shops, services, childcare, and employment space to support the new community and the rest of the city
  • Recognizing and celebrating cultural and heritage assets
  • Creating new parks and open spaces, and a comprehensive package of other community amenities to be determined through the process

The City’s online survey comes with discussion guides for Emerging Site Planning Ideas on the themes of Natural Systems and Open Space, Connections and Mobility, Inclusive Neighbourhood, and Sustainability and Resilience.

**********

Readers are encouraged to read up, save the guides for future reference, and take the survey. And to watch out for future updates. Below are some comments obtained from the West Point Grey Residents Association, and further below, some links for further reading.

**************

Some points from WPGRA based on input from the community.

Continue reading

Postscript: Amendments to Zoning and Development By-Law to increase ‘social housing’ in RM-4 and RM-3A zoning districts (April 20, 2021)

Here is a postscript to the Council decision on, provided here with permission from and thanks to the Upper Kitsilano Residents Association (UKRA).

Map of affected zoning districts. Credit CoV.

*******

Following two nights of public hearings, Vancouver City Council voted April 20, 2021 [see Item 4 at this link for video, minutes, documents, correspondence] to increase density for non-profit housing in select areas of the city (see map), and abolish the requirement for public hearings to do so.

Council threw its unanimous support (with only Coun. Colleen Hardwick abstaining) behind an amended proposal that will allow non-profit operators to build to six storey buildings, with even greater density than proposed by staff, in the RM-3A, RM-4, and RM-4N zones in parts of Kitsilano, Fairview, Mount Pleasant, Grandview-Woodland, and Marpole.

Throughout the hearing, non-profit operators urged Council not to stop at six storeys (the current zoning is four) but approve heights of up to ten storeys. Rather than give the operators greater height—which would have meant another public hearing—Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung followed a suggestion by Senior City Planner Dan Garrison and put forth an amendment to increase the floor space ratio (FSR) from 2.5 to 3.0. The change will result in approximately two extra units per floor, according to Senior Development Planner, Paul Cheng, but would result in less outdoor space.

One contentious issue brought up by neighbours, speakers, and some Councillors, was the City’s misleading definition of “social housing.” Staff said the intent of the amendment is to provide more affordable housing by increasing density in non-profit owned units where 100% of the building is reserved for social housing.

What staff failed to mention is that 100% of the “social housing” constitutes only 30% of a building’s units. The rest (70%) are market rental. [Related post by CityHallWatch: “An update on Vancouver’s bizarre definition of ‘social housing’ “]

Continue reading

Little Mountain dispute in BC Supreme Court this week. Developer Holborn is fighting to stop the release of documents

LITTLE MOUNTAIN DISPUTE IN BC SUPREME COURT THIS WEEK

Related media coverage with background info: “Fight over access to details of Little Mountain purchase contract heads to B.C. Supreme Court: Years-long battle to make contract public set to be heard over 2 days, by Jeremy Allingham,  CBC News,  · Apr 15, 2021)

(Press Release received, 15-April-2021)

The next chapter in the 14-year long Little Mountain Social Housing dispute heads to BC Supreme Court on Thursday. The Court will hear the developer’s judicial review application (appeal) of a Freedom of Information order to make the contract between Holborn Properties Ltd. And B.C. Housing public.

The provincial FOI process resulted in a victory for former MLA David Chudnovsky and CBC Producer Jeremy Allingham who made separate applications to see the contract originally signed in 2008. Holborn is appealing that decision.

“This is just Holborn’s latest attempt to stall the process,” said Chudnovsky. “What are they hiding? People have been asking since 2008 to see the contract. The residents of BC and Vancouver – and especially those who were forced to leave their homes all those years ago – have a right to see what was in this deal.”

The Little Mountain social housing community was built in the 1950s. Its 224 units housed almost 700 people who were told in 2007 they had to move, their homes would be rebuilt, and they would return to their new units by the Olympics (in 2010).

Chudnovsky commented, “In the midst of an affordable housing crisis virtually nothing has been done in 14 years. The privatization of this site was a terrible mistake by the Gordon Campbell BC Liberal government and the then Housing Minister Rich Coleman. Little Mountain is still a huge vacant lot.”

“Holborn thinks we’re going to get tired and give up. No way. We’re going to see that contract,” concluded Chudnovsky.

Continue reading

An update on Vancouver’s bizarre definition of ‘social housing’

1059-1075 Nelson Street

On June 2, 2020, City Council passed a motion by Councillor Pete Fry entitled “Defining Social Housing Consistently and Transparently in the City of Vancouver,” directing City staff to look into the bizarre definition of “social housing” being used by Vancouver’s planning department.

This wording was not the staff’s fault. It had been adopted by City Council in 2014 under the former Vision Vancouver regime (under former mayor Gregor Robertson).

However, the City’s definition persists and is being used in housing decisions to this day. It is a boon for developers, as it allows developers to benefit (added height and density, fee waivers, etc.) in a new building by being considered “social housing” even though 70% of the units are actually market-priced rentals (i.e., expensive).

More than one current sitting councillor has chosen other words to describe the city’s definition of “social housing”: Orwellian doublespeak – (language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words).

Clr Pete Fry made a valiant attempt to get this all cleared up and have the City use words that are more honest and would avoid misleading the public. On June 2, 2020, Council adopted the motion (see full text below) directing staff to look into this. This is the main gist of his motion:

  • The City of Vancouver definition of Social Housing is inconsistent with the standard definitions employed by the Province, Government of Canada Agencies and the English-speaking world;
  • When attempting to understand housing targets or determining the merits or public benefits of a rezoning or development application, Vancouverites may be confused or misled by the term Social Housing as defined by the City of Vancouver and applied to the entire project, not just the percent or portion of non-market affordable rental or co-op housing.

We checked with Clr Fry to follow-up and learned that a memo went to Mayor and Council from (now former) chief planner Gil Kelley date March 5, 2021. The response is very interesting as it compares the corresponding wording being used in various other jurisdictions.

But the conclusion of the ten page memo is that the chief planner preferred NOT to make any changes in the definition.

Clr Fry shared with us his observation, that “… for the public, the technical definition of social housing is a sort of Orwellian doublespeak when it references something other than the common definition of subsidized low-income housing,” and indicated he would prefer the City to use the term “non-market housing” and phase out the term “social housing” entirely.

Further below we provide some links to media coverage, plus text of the motion. Here is the March 5, 2021 memo by former planner Gil Kelley: “Response to Council’s “Defining Social Housing Consistently and Transparently in the City of Vancouver” Motion.”

Continue reading

Why does the City of Vancouver shut down brand new basement suites and evict renters?

Caption: Due to Vancouver’s high property costs, one-family homes today are built with permitted secondary suites and/or laneway houses. However, according to a 2015 city report, only 27 percent of Vancouver secondary suites are constructed with permits

Why does the City of Vancouver shut down brand new basement suites and evict renters?

Guest contribution by: Andrew
(For reasons of privacy, CHW has omitted the contributor’s last name.)

A Background on Vancouver Basement Suites

Most people know of at least one person who has lived in a Vancouver basement suite. At one time, basement suites were “illegal” and the City of Vancouver could technically shut them down. The City doesn’t shut down “illegal” suites except in two scenarios. More on that later. But first, some background:

Vancouver’s first basement suites emerged during the Second World War when the government had the incentive to let more people live in productive areas. The federal government issued an order which said that if a home owner wanted to rent out a room or a suite, the cities could not prohibit it.

In the mid-1950s, the City began reversing the trend of basement suites by introducing zoning bylaws which outlawed secondary suites. UBC students, many of whom lived in basement suites themselves, opposed the bylaws. In 1960, the UBC Alma Mater Society pleaded with the City to allow “up to four students per single family dwelling until the housing situation on campus eases” but the motion failed. The UBC students kept trying to amend the zoning laws for the next eight years but failed.

Legalization of Secondary Suites

The good news is that the City eventually did allow “illegal” basement suites to exist. The City wasn’t always consistent in its basement suite policy, at times oscillating between strict enforcement and implicit approval. But the trend over the years has been for increased legalization of basement suites, chipping away at the City’s power to shut down “illegal suites”. For example, in 2004, the City amended bylaws to allow secondary suites in RS, RT and RM zoning districts (S, T, and M purportedly for single-, two-, and multiple-family, respectively). In 2009, the City approved further zoning changes to enable full-size basements in all single-family areas.

In a 2015 Business in Vancouver article, at least 43 percent of Vancouver homeowners said that they rented out either their basement suite, laneway house or other rooms in the house. This comes as no surprise given Vancouver’s high cost of living. (The article speculated that this number might be even higher since some homeowners didn’t want to provide full disclosure in case they were breaching their home insurance policies.)

More recently, in March 2017, Councillor Adriane Carr introduced a motion with the aim of having all existing houses with one or two unauthorized suites in the RT and RM zones be “considered grandfathered existing legal non-conforming suites” under Vancouver’s secondary suite bylaws. After some rigorous debate by the Vision Vancouver dominated Council, this motion was never passed but instead referred to City staff for further study as part of the Vancouver Housing Re:set. It’s been buried for three years so far and no one knows the status of Councillor Carr’s secondary suite motion, nor of the Housing Re:set study.

When does the City shut down “illegal” suites? The First Scenario

Continue reading