Definition of “affordable” today: Housing costing less than 30% of before-tax household income (Jak King cites CMHC)

GWAC homes image Grandview Feb 2018This is a very useful comment and definition of “affordable housing by Jak King, civic historian and blogger. The key points could be printed on a card with updated figures as a memory aid for politicians, media, city staff, election candidates, activists and so on…


“Affordable Housing”

In my discussion of the Grant Street project, I noted that the proposed rents for the units to be built will not add to the affordable stock in Grandview. I have been asked to justify that statement.

The widely recognized standard of “affordable housing” is defined as housing costing less than 30% of before-tax household income. This definition is used by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). Some lending institutions use 32% of income for housing costs as the affordability threshold used to approve mortgages. My comments about affordability always use the CMHC definition.

The latest statistics I have for incomes in Vancouver shows the median annual family income to be $72,600. The average individual annual income is $38,449 (I cannot find the individual median which will be lower than the average, so I will use the average.)


– an affordable monthly rent for a median Vancouver family is 30% of $72,600 = $1,815 per month;

– an affordable monthly rent for an average Vancouver single is 30% of $38,449 = $962 per month

Two singles sharing a one bedroom apartment can barely afford $1,800 a month, while a median Vancouver family cannot afford a two-bedroom at $2,300 (which would be close to 40% of their gross income) without sacrificing food or healthcare or other essentials.

So, whenever I carp about affordability, this is what I am talking about

‘Community gardens’ give big developers big tax breaks while small businesses suffer and close under tax burden

Community Garden Wesgroup 41st Oak Dec-2017 (2)

Wesgroup’s “Community Garden” at 41st and Oak. What is the definition of “your”? Photo: CityHallWatch.

On 9-Jan-2018, regular columnist Allen Garr had an interesting article in the Vancouver Courier, entitled “Small businesses suffer while Vancouver developers cash in on tax breaks.” We capture some excerpts of his findings here. We would like to see a map of all the developers’ community gardens in Vancouver, and tally of the taxes they are saving but the burden being passed on to other taxpayers. Also, how many of the raised bed boxes are actually being gardened by members of the local “community”?

We hear about local businesses suffering under heavy property tax loads and many closing down after many years of operation (see “Taxed to death: How Vancouver’s small business are falling victim to soaring property tax” Jan Zeschky, Westender, 14-Dec-2017). Meanwhile, major developers are getting an easy ride on taxes by clearing a development property and making a deals with “community garden” operators to place raised bed gardens on the site and save significantly on taxes while the land appreciates and the developer prepares a development application.

As we see it, systems are heavily biased in favour of developers, a symptom of “regulatory capture.” Regulators should never be funded by those they are supposed to regulate.  Many of the same developers benefitting from this system are the same ones who donate to politicians in elections at both the provincial and municipal level. Corporate and union donations are banned for the October 2018 civic election, but will the systemic biases change? Time will tell.

Community Garden Wesgroup 41st Oak Dec-2017 (1)

Another view of Wesgroup’s “Community Garden” at 41st and Oak. Photo: CityHallWatch

Other “Community Gardens”:

  • Broadway/Alma. Previously a gas station.
  • 10th/Alma. Previously a gas station.
  • More to be added…


Small businesses suffer while Vancouver developers cash in on tax breaks (Allen Garr, Vancouver Courier, 9-Jan-2018)


Does it not strike you as odd that, when it comes to city-imposed property taxes in Vancouver, small businesses, struggling to stay alive, get pounded to the point of facing failure, while major developers get significant tax reductions for doing nothing except allowing folks to grow a few carrots or potatoes on their patch of land? Continue reading

GWAC meeting tonight: What a community can do when a proposed project raises local concern

GWAC homes image Grandview Feb 2018The Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) regular monthly meeting (tonight) will look at what a community and its residents can do when a proposed project raises local concern.

In social media and even in public hearings, the discussion sometimes gets oversimplified as YIMBY vs NIMBY arguments, but how can a respectful dialogue occur and people listen to others’ concerns? Should neighbourhood character, access to light and views be “thrown out the window” to provide more housing? What are the trade-offs, processes, issues, compromises, and solutions? How can they be communicated? This meeting looks at a specific case of a  six-storey building being proposed on Grant Street beside 1.5 and two-storey houses. GWAC is a neighbourhood association with one of the longest histories in Vancouver.

GWAC Meeting
Monday, 5-Feb-2018 starting at 7 pm
Learning Resource Centre, beneath Britannia Library, 1661 Napier St, Vancouver, BC V5L 4X4

“What to do When a Proposed Project Raises Local Concern?”

In a neighbourhood of 1 1/2 to 2 storey houses, a group of neighbours find themselves being presented with a proposed 6 storey building immediately adjacent, as their newest neighbour, which has raised grave concerns. Continue reading

10-year trajectory of real estate industry (and politician) narrative in just 49 words by @judyrudin

In a popular tweet of just 49 words, @judyrudin has captured the trajectory of the narrative of the real estate industry (and the politicians they have funded in the past municipal and provincial elections) over the past ten years or more.  With the ban on corporate and union donations for the 2018 civic elections (if no loopholes appear) how will their narrative evolve next?

The trajectory of the developers #vanre narrative, thus far:
*There are no offshore buyers
*A few offshore buyers
*You racists!
*OK, 5 % offshore buyers
*OK, 15 or 20% in a few ‘pockets’
*we have to sell offshore or we lose money!
*empty condos: a boon to YVR’s economy!

“Housing crisis in a nutshell”: Jak King asks who can afford the new townhouses in Grandview

So, who are these townhouses aimed at?  Foreign speculators could afford them, of course; and so could people who already have houses to sell. But the average Vancouver family looking to get a foothold into the housing market are frozen out.” (Jak King)

My simple position: building for need is good density, building for greed is nothing but greed. Building for need, in case some people don’t know, is building in a way that local families with local incomes can afford what is being built.” (@jakking49)

Historian and prolific blogger Jak King has made an interesting blog post with specific example that sheds light on Vancouver’s “Housing Crisis in A Nutshell.” The Grandview Woodland community plan is in its implementation phase. It strongly promotes townhouse development, supposedly to make housing more affordable.  How are the City’s policies working out in the real world?

Brand new townhouses the City and housing supply-siders are advocating are now on sale, on land formerly occupied by old houses that had provided inexpensive rentals. Jak does the math to show that even with a family’s parents helping out with the down payment, the annual mortgage payments of $56,652 are “more than the entirety of their take home pay after tax and deductions.”

Here is an excerpt, with permission.

Housing Crisis In A Nutshell

I live on Adanac hill in the same block as the WISE Hall.  The north side of the street running up to Victoria used to have several crumbling old Edwardian houses that were full of very cheap rental units. They have all been  demolished over the last few years and replaced with townhouses.

You may recall that townhouses are supposed to be one of the cheap alternative to single family houses, and the Planning department are pushing them more and more into Grandview (see the recent Open House) as a solution to the housing affordability problem.

The townhouse development right next door to my building has just been completed and I happened to see one of the townhouses advertised in a real estate office this morning:

Realty advert Grandview Woodland, Jak King Feb 2018 Continue reading

“Park Board really needs to go back to the drawing board on VanSplash in its entirety!”: Meeting tonight on long term aquatics/pools strategy could see fireworks (Mon 29-Jan-2018)

VanSplash Vancouver Aquatics Strategy cover page Dec 2018It has become very apparent that Vancouver tax payers have been kept in the dark about what the plan is for Vancouver’s Pools. Even the VanSplash name is misleading. It sounds more like a beach party advertisement than a 25 year infinitive for Vancouver Pools.” Bill Wadsworth, Kitsilano resident (See letter further below.)

The Park Board really needs to go back to the drawing board on VanSplash in its entirety!” Elvira Lount, Kitsilano resident (See letter further below.)

The Vancouver Park Board meets tonight, Monday, January 29, 2018, for the final discussion and decision on a long-term plan for Vancouver pools. For the record, we provide some information here (letters, links, media) about dissenting views from people who feel the consultation and the resulting proposed plan are inadequate.

The plan, dubbed “VanSplash,” includes a 25-year vision and a 10-year implementation plan for the city’s aquatic services. It features a shift “away from a predominantly neighbourhood scale pool system” to one that features larger community and “destination scale” facilities. The strategy has already spurred considerable community anger over the proposed closure of Lord Byng and Templeton Park pools.

Some citizens are criticizing the process leading up to tonight’s meeting and proposed decisions. There has been limited media coverage of groups fighting to preserve neighbourhood pools. Much of the proposed strategy is vague at this point, but officials they say they will consult the public on the details after the Park Board approves the general policies. But there is some doubt regarding how much leeway will be given for public input on the specifics. There are concerns about major changes in beloved community facilities.

Regarding the proposed “destination pool” at Connaught Park in Kitsilano, one group has created an informative website:

Further below are some links and media coverage.

See Park Board agenda and  VanSplash related documents here: Continue reading

Council appoints new City Clerk and new Chief Election Officer

City HallHere is some news, for the record, from an information notice from the City of Vancouver, dated 22-Jan-2018. Current City Clerk, Janice McKenzie, retires in March 2018. She also served as Chief Election Officer in 2011, 2014, and 2017 civic elections. Going forward the roles will be separated. Katrina Leckovic will replace her as City Clerk, and Rosemary Hagiwara will be Chief Election Officer for the 2018 Municipal Election. CityHallWatch thanks them for their service to the people of Vancouver and wishes all three of them the best in their new roles.

City Clerk and Chief Election Officer are crucial roles at City Hall.


Last week, Vancouver City Council appointed Katrina Leckovic into the role of City Clerk. She will formally take the position on March 23, 2018. Katrina brings a wealth of experience to the role, having worked as Director, Legislative Operations and Deputy City Clerk in the City Clerk’s Office since February 2016. Continue reading