Welcome to our semi-regular scan of what’s on the agenda for City Councils around the region. This is a bit of a pilot idea, and we’re now migrating it over from our Patreon page, let us know any feedback you have so we can refine it to be the most informative survey of the region possible. Note that this is not exhaustive, many items or even cities have been left off if there was not deemed value in including it here.

Most of the region have been on a break for much of March, and are returning this week to get back to regular business. Because of the size and scope of Vancouver issues, we’ve decided to divide this issue into a Vancouver specific, followed by a rest of the region edition.

Is Rental 100 Going on Ice?

Councillor Swanson has a motion coming to council that could see a major component of Rental 100 terminated. She has quite vocal allies in Councillors Carr and Fry. The motion calls, in effect, for the suspension of the DCL waiver component of the program.

As has been heavily covered in previous Cambie Report episodes, notably Rental 100 101, one of the major components of Rental 100 is a Development Cost Levy waiver offered in exchange for ensuring that initial rents are limited to no more than an amount set by the City each year. For 2019, the waiver is set out as follows:

Unit TypeVancouver EastVancouver West
Studio$1,607/mo$1,768/mo
1-bedroom$1,869/mo$2,056/mo
2-bedroom$2,457/mo$2,703/mo
3-bedroom$3,235/mo$3,559/mo

The program is responsible for greatly increasing the number of rental units built in Vancouver, and is seen by many housing advocates as vital to long term affordability. Councillor Kirby-Young has indicated strong support of the program, and it’s believed that Councillor Boyle agrees.

On the other side of the coin, other housing advocates believe that the DCL waiver represents a sop to developers. That the waiver is in fact a subsidy to developers, and given the feelings towards developers, it is a given that they are quite upset at that thought. Further, they believe that because the city has not become more affordable, that the program is a failure. Finally, critics argue that the rates set, while below market rates, are hardly affordable.

Realistically, the answer likely lies somewhere in the middle. The DCL waiver component of Rental 100 is quite weak. While the subsidy is quite low, ranging from as low as $10,000 per unit to $20,000 per unit, the benefit is also quite low. Comparing 2019 rent caps to similar rental in condo buildings around Vancouver demonstrates a savings of ~$200-$300 per month. At that savings, it would take several years for a resident to receive the subsidy value in savings. Making matters worse, the rent cap is only applied to the first renter, if they should move, the rental company can set the next rent at whatever the market allows.

It may be that switching the waiver to instead require a number of truly affordable housing units as part of the development. This program is in place in the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program (MIRHPP), where 20% of the residental floor area is made available to moderate income households. The MIRHPP is a program that both Councillors Carr and Fry have indicated they support. That said, programs are not plug and play, simply because it may work with one program does not mean it will work with the other.

One aspect that is entirely unclear is whether or not Rental 100, as it stands, can exist without the DCL waiver. To date, researchers at the Cambie Report (Namely Patrick), have only been able to identify one project, still in application stage that has opted out of the DCL waiver. That DCL waiver significantly improves developers financing efforts, and is considered by some to be integral to “making the math work.”

Council has been fighting over Rental 100, through individual project applications and townhalls, since they came into office. This appears to be the first chance for Council to really debate the issue as a whole, and it will be interesting to see how council falls on the issue, albeit, some on council may wish to wait until the staff report comes forward this winter with options to improve the program.

The question for Council this week is, should the program be essentially suspended until the staff report comes in, or should they continue to operate the program as usual for the rest of 2019 or until another solution presents itself.

What else is on the agenda?

Staff will be presenting the Housing Vancouver Annual Progress Report and Data Book. This is always an interesting read, and should be quite informative for the Rental 100 debate that will follow.

Staff Reports:

  • Recommendation to continue funding the Off-Site public art display at 1100 West Georgia Street in partnership with the Art Gallery. Funds come from the Georgia Street Public Art Reserve, which is funded primarily from funds generated by the approval of the Shangri-La development.
  • 2018 Financial Statement
    • The city had a surplus of $381m in 2018 bringing the accumulated surplus to $7,608m
    • The surplus is primarily driven by higher than anticipated development fees
    • The “Sunshine List” of employees earning greater than $75k per year, this is a rather long list.

Council Motions:

  • Swanson: Support for Adequate Funding for Legal Aid
    • Given the announcement of $4 million in new funding from the Province, matched by a similar amount from the Legal Services Society, averting a looming strike, this motion may simply be withdrawn.
    • This is a motion calling on the Province to increase funding
  • Wiebe: Shore to Shore Greenways Plan
    • This builds on Councillor Wiebe’s earlier motion on watershed management, including a staff report to refresh the 1995 Vancouver Greenways Plan and seeks to build options for Council to expand the greenways of the city
    • Councillor Wiebe appears to be the Green Councillor
  • Swanson: A motion to increase shelter and housing options
    • Build a business case for housing all homeless people in Vancouver to be used to lobby the Federal and Provincial governments, explicitly timed with the Federal election
  • Hardwick: Review of SNC Lavalin relationship with the City
    • This motion is back again! Hardwick is using the SNC Lavalin controversy to push a motion that would seek to slow the Broadway subway by forcing numerous staff reports be developed before any further approvals come forward.
    • Essentially all of what Hardwick is asking for is already public knowledge, as an example, she is concerned about SNC Lavalin or Bombardier having proprietary technology that would force the subway extension to contract with them, which on multiple occasions staff at TransLink, or the CEO of TransLink himself, have said is not the case.
  • Swanson: Re-conceptualizing the City’s Rental 100 Program
    • Essentially, this motion seeks to do two things, non-controversially, it seeks to make the Winter 2019 staff report on Rental 100 include more robust options.
    • As written above,this directs Legal Services to draft By-Law changes which would terminate the component of Rental 100 that allows developers to have some development costs waived for making their rental buildings monthly rent conform to a city dictated maximum.

Public Hearing April 2nd:

  • The 12th Avenue and Stephens Street rental application.
    • This is a Rental 100 project that seeks to bring a number of rental townhouse units into the West side.
    • The DCL waiver for these 14 units (6-3Bed, 5-2Bed) is $178k, though if built to current zoning, the City would only receive $42k in DCL’s
    • As of this writing, the City has received 4 correspondences for the townhall, all opposed. Reasons given are: Too Many People, Not Enough Parking.
    • One correspondent noted this development could work if it were near a SkyTrain station and boy do I want to have a chat with them about the Broadway subway!
    • Best Quote: “Entire neighbourhoods have been ravaged and destroyed by the combined factors of COV misguided priorities… as well as the greed of real estate salespeople”
  • 1303 Kingsway and 3728 Clark Drive
    • Six story mixed use with 54 rental units at the location of the current Cedar Cottage Pub.
    • Unit breakdown: 16 studio, 18 1-Bed, 14 2-bed, 6 3-bed.
    • DCL waiver is just over $1 million
    • The existing coffee shop and pub are to be retained

Public Hearing April 4th:

  • Townhouses at King Ed and Manitoba
    • 1.2 FSR to be sold not rented. This will presumably not be controversial.
  • Townhouses at 52nd and Oak
    • 1.2 FSR to be sold not rented, although there are 5 detached houses on the property today that are all being rented out, presumably displacing those occupants.
  • Townhouses at 28th and Ash
    • Starting to feel like a broken record.
  • Townhouses at 48th and Oak
    • This is a trend.

Vancouver Parks Board – April 1st

The Parks board will be having the presentation of the annual Stanley Park Bright Nights Firefighters Burn Fund, because that’s a thing!

The notable motion at Parks Board this week is from Commissioner Irwin, and is calling for an expansion in the size of Crab Park to be provided by the Port of Vancouver. The proposal calls for the parking lot west of the park, and adding a new pedestrian overpass from Columbia Street.

As things stand, the parking lot is very underused. There is speculation that the physical footprint that the Port requires is in process of being downsized through a combination of better use of rail and expansion of Ashcroft as an inland port to better manage container traffic.

Below is a rough approximation of the land being considered by the motion.

Vancouver School Board – not meeting this week.

Once again, this is a pilot project we have ongoing, layout, structure, content, any feedback you have would be much appreciated. If you’d like, leave a comment, or email at [email protected]

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