OneCity Vancouver's 2014 Election Policy on Affordable Housing

Housing is more unaffordable than ever, and existing affordable rental housing is being lost. New developments are not affordable nor do they meet the needs of families and working people. A vibrant and inclusive city requires affordable housing for middle- and low-income residents.

In order to address the affordable housing crisis, Vancouver needs a comprehensive strategy that includes:

  • Inclusionary zoning: 20% of units in new market developments are reserved for middle- and low-income households at affordable rates

  • Reining in rampant speculation driving up housing cost and demolitions through a flipping levy

  • Protecting existing rentals and stopping renovictions
  • Protecting supportive housing and preventing homelessness
  • Enabling and supporting successful affordable housing models, including co-ops and community land trusts
  • Advocating for a National Housing Strategy and long-term federal and provincial support for affordable housing


20 Over 5 Housing

The 20 Over 5 Housing policy to combat the out-of-control costs of living, working and raising a family in Vancouver. Twenty per cent of the living spaces in all new market developments over five units, right across the city, must be be reserved for low- and middle-income households.

With the average family income of renters stuck at around $35,000, the new living spaces being built in Vancouver are simply not affordable for many renters or potential buyers. Vancouver needs more affordable housing, and unlike the Vision-led City Council, OneCity believes we need to define what affordable means: In all new developments of five living spaces or more, 20 per cent of units must cost no more than 30 per cent of income.

The 20 Over 5 Housing plan will encourage two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments and homes, built by the developer and then managed by the City’s Housing Authority. There will be no up-front capital costs for the City of Vancouver.


That Flipping Levy

That_Flipping_Levy.jpgA real-estate speculator buys a Vancouver residential property for $1 million. The home is left empty, with no improvements or a single dollar flowing into the local businesses around it, and in less than a year it is sold for $1.5 million. That is a speculative profit of $500,000 — and it is a big part of the reason housing prices in Vancouver are leaving too many people who live and work here on the outside looking up.

Vancouver needs to curb rampant speculation with a Flipping Levy, a policy being used in cities around the world facing out-of-control housing costs: Singapore and Hong Kong.

The Vancouver Flipping Levy would apply only to speculative profit, the difference between the initial purchase price and the resale price. It will encourage long-term home ownership and spending in the local economy by decreasing over time, disappearing after the fifth year, and by exempting the cost of renovations, green retrofits and other capital improvements.

The revenue generated by the Flipping Levy will be transferred to the Vancouver Housing Authority to create new living spaces for low- and middle-income people throughout the city.

Specifically, OneCity’s proposed Flipping Levy would be:

  • 50 per cent of speculative profit in year one;
  • 35 per cent in years two and three; and,
  • 20 per cent in years four and five.

The speculative profit of $500,000 in the example above would result in a Flipping Levy of $250,000 to support affordable housing. OneCity defines affordable as housing that costs no more than 30 per cent of a household’s monthly income.


Protect Existing Rentals and End Renovictions

City Hall must also amend the Rate of Change bylaw that is supposed to replace rental units lost to redevelopment, making sure it applies to all zoning types, replaces bedrooms on a one-for-one basis, and that rents increase by no more than five per cent.

In Vancouver, "renovictions" are increasingly common practice when a landlord uses renovations as a means displace the existing tenants and charge a higher rental rate. This shameful practice must come to an end by City Hall acting before development permits are issued, giving existing tenants rights of first refusal and again limiting rent increases.


Protect Supportive Housing and Prevent Homelessness

City Hall should close the loopholes in bylaws that are supposed to protect low-income and supportive housing and prevent homelessness.

The City needs to actively enforce the Building Maintenance and Safety Bylaw to protect renters from poorly maintained buildings, especially single room occupancy hotels (SROs) that are being neglected despite past commitments and promises.

We need to strengthen the Single Room Accommodations Bylaw to stop developers who are converting existing single-room accommodations into condos, sitting on empty dwellings, or worse, demolishing them and shipping the waste to landfills.


Enable and Support Successful Affordable Housing Models

City Hall needs to provide leadership in encouraging and supporting the development of creative and successful affordable housing models, including co-ops, community land trusts, and mutual housing associations. These models have been tested in Vancouver and in cities across the world to deliver affordable housing for families, seniors, middle and low-income households, while ensuring that affordability is preserved in perpetuity.

Vancouver currently has 5,654 housing co-op units in 105 non-profit co-ops. Many of these affordable units are threatened as operating agreements with the federal government expire and senior levels of government refuse to renew their commitment to affordable housing. City Hall needs to work closely with the co-op and non-profit housing sectors to advocate for a National Housing Strategy and the need for federal and provincial involvement in affordable housing.

Some housing co-ops lease their land from the City of Vancouver at a nominal rate. But these co-ops face uncertain futures because City Hall has not renewed land leases that will expire over the next ten years. City Hall needs to renew these land leases and enable these affordable housing co-ops to plan their financial future with certainty.

OneCity also calls on City Hall to allocate a budget line for grants to co-ops to assist with necessary maintenance and energy efficiency improvements. A specific portion of the Capital Plan and/or the Property Endowment Fund should be dedicated to land contributions for new or expanding housing co-ops.

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