West End Neighbours rejects City of Vancouver’s bylaw tweaks on STIR/Rental 100: “City still gives away too much and is NOT getting affordable housing in return”
(Vancouver, December 1, 2013) West End Neighbours’ lawyer, Nathalie Baker, responded on Friday to the City of Vancouver regarding proposed changes to two bylaws underpinning the City’s Short Term Incentives for Rental (STIR) and Rental 100 programs, indicating that if Council adopts the proposed amendments on December 3, WEN is prepared to continue with its B.C. Supreme Court action.
Baker wrote the City’s lawyer noting, “The proposed bylaws do not comply with the statute whose purpose is to create ‘affordable’ housing, not ‘unaffordable’ rental housing for the purpose of subsidizing developers.”
WEN director Virginia Richards said, “We find it unacceptable that on behalf of the public and taxpayers, the City is dramatically failing to create genuine affordable housing despite generous incentives to developers.”
WEN was concerned about the STIR and RENTAL 100 schemes that allowed the City to subsidize high-rent market housing with massive density bonuses, on the pretext that it was affordable. The burden the developments created was shifted to the West End and other neighbourhoods because the City agreed to waive Development Cost Levies and amenity payments that should have been available to mitigate the effects of the developments. On September 20 WEN applied to the Supreme Court seeking judicial review of two bylaws authorizing the programs.
WEN sought to force the City to establish, by bylaw, clear criteria justify the generous incentives the City offers developers. In direct response to WEN’s challenge, on December 3, City Council is set to review amendments to the development cost levy (DCL) bylaws to allow the City to waive these levies based on a new definition of “for profit affordable rental housing” under STIR and Rental 100. The permitted rents at initial occupancy for this “affordable rental housing” are defined in the proposed legislation as follows:
|$1,443 (max $1,587)||studio||
Proposal allows for rents up to 10% higher than indicated amounts (figures in parentheses calculated by WEN)
|$1,517 (max $1,669)||one-bedroom|
|$2,061 (max $2,627)||two-bedroom|
|$2,741 (max $3,015)||three-bedroom|
“We should not have had to go to Court to get the City to think about the meaning of ‘affordable,’ rental housing,” said Richards. “Unable to provide affordable housing as promised, the City simply called unaffordable housing, ‘affordable’ and pretended that the solution is all in a name. The proposed rents expose the absurdity of the whole thing. The proposed rents are significantly higher than current average rents in the City, and for the three-bedroom units only affordable to households making well over $100,000 per year. How can that constitute ‘affordable’ rental housing? We think that City taxpayers have been giving up far too much and getting far too little in return. The big winners in all this are the developers. We hope that Vancouver can now have a proper discussion about how to address housing affordability in a meaningful way.”
WEN estimates the value of DCL waivers to date, approved or in progress under STIR and Rental 100, at over $13 million. Please visit our website for more information, including examples of projects in the West End, a list of projects citywide, past media releases, and previous correspondence with the City. See also November 12 media release (West End Neighbours’ Supreme Court challenge to Vancouver’s STIR and Rental 100 programs results in bylaw changes).
West End Neighbours, a non-profit society registered under the BC Society Act, is a coalition of volunteers who recognise the unique character of their community and strive to maintain the core assets and relationships within the neighbourhood.
Related information, for reference (not part of media release)
Metro Vancouver’s median renter household income of $35,875 is equal to approximately 65% of the median income for all households in the region.
- Note that this number is for Metro Vancouver, and City of Vancouver may be slightly higher. Note that individual” income is different from “household” income.
- We believe median “household income” in Vancouver is about $70,000. This includes all households renters and owners.
- Median “rental household income” in Vancouver is about $35,000. Note that this is not “median renter income.” Rental households may have more than one income earner.
The following City document from May 2012 states, “The median income of renters ($34,000) is half that of owners ($66,000)” on page 2:
A vast amount of background reading is available on the STIR and Rental 100 programs. Here are some selected web links, and further below, a list of projects to date.
WEN petitions Supreme Court challenging STIR and Rental 100 programs (media release announcing our court challenge, 20-Sept-2013)
Overview of STIR issues: https://westendneighbours.wordpress.com/stir/
WEN’s official communication to the City, which did not respond for nearly one year, at which point, after repeated reminders, simply rejected all of WEN’s points: https://westendneighbours.wordpress.com/stir/wen-challenges-stir-2/
Note that the STIR incentive package included:
- Rental property assessment (on rental units only)
- Development Cost Levy waiver (on rental units only)
- Parking requirement reductions (on rental units only)
- Discretion on unit size Increased density
- Expedited permit processing
WEN chronology, includes many points about STIR:
City of Vancouver official web page on STIR and Rental 100:
Debate erupts on Vision Vancouver definition of affordable housing. And City staff are overdue to report on STIR evaluation
Deconstructing STIR: Vancouver’s Tax-Cuts-for-Developers Housing Strategy
The Ugly Story of Short Term Incentives for Rental
LIST OF STIR AND RENTAL 100 PROJECTS TO OCTOBER 2013
(Note that after being rezoned, developers often apply for change of address. These we have noted in some cases below.)
Complete – Occupied
Permits Issued – Under Construction
1215 Bidwell (changed to 1221 Bidwell, in West End – Millennium Developments)
2750 E 41st Ave
2778 E Hastings
8495 Granville (Marpole Safeway – Westbank)
1401 Comox (changed to 1061 Broughton, in West End – Westbank)
2215 E Hastings
Rezoning Approved – Permits Pending
1600 Beach (Beach Towers, in West End)
4320 Slocan St
Rezoning Applications – In Process
1418 E 41st
963 E 19th Ave
1620 W 6th Ave
RENTAL 100 PROJECTS
Approved – Permits Pending
245 E Georgia St
Applications – In Process
1568 E King Ed @ Kingsway
333 E 11th (275 Kingsway)
3819 Boundary Rd
458 W 41st
2681 Main St