WEN appeals Court decision, challenges City’s logic and facts on STIR and Rental 100 developer incentive programs.
(Vancouver, July 14, 2014) Continuing its legal action with the City of Vancouver, West End Neighbours (WEN) announces that it filed a notice of appeal with the BC Supreme Court on June 30.
In its May 30 decision, the Court found that “there has not been unlawful delegation of legislative authority by the City,” and that it is “within the City’s authority to establish an eligible development of ‘for-profit affordable rental housing’.”
WEN continues to assert that the City improperly granted generous incentives to developers under Short Term Incentives for Rental (STIR) and is still doing so under the Rental 100 program. WEN finds it troubling that the Court agreed with the City, finding that it can define affordable rental housing anyway it wants. In fact, the City’s thinking could be characterized by this simplistic definition: “Affordable housing is housing someone can afford” (as stated by Vision Vancouver City Councillor Kerry Jang on August 19, 2013).
As one example of the City’s defense, it tried to justify itself saying that the new buildings constructed under STIR and Rental 100 will become more affordable over time as they age. While there may be some merit in the idea that aging housing becomes less expensive over time relative to new construction, this is not sufficient justification for a municipal government to waive development cost levies that are mandated for all other forms of development. The foregone City revenues (well over $10 million in foregone levies so far) and incremental infrastructure costs due to STIR and Rental 100 projects end up as a burden paid by taxpayers, yet neighbourhoods accepting these developments will not see any gain in truly affordable rental housing from those projects.
WEN Director, Virginia Richards said, “The City isn’t helping renters. It’s helping developers. They are defining ‘affordable rental housing’ as whatever City staff and developers say it is. Not acceptable. This case is about Vancouver City Hall being honest, transparent, and accountable.”
Background: WEN filed the original petition on September 19, 2013 asking the Court to set aside sections of the City’s DCL bylaws granting waivers for “for profit affordable rental housing.” WEN alleged, among other things, that the Bylaw unlawfully granted the City Manager the power to determine what constitutes affordable rental housing. As a result of WEN’s petition, the City did amend its bylaws on December 3, just two days before the originally-scheduled Court hearing, setting out for the first time what the City considered to be “affordable” under STIR and Rental 100. But the numbers shocked many: “agreed upon average rents per unit type for initial occupancy do not exceed…$1,443 per month for a studio, $1,517 for a one bedroom unit, and $2061 for a two bedroom.” The incentives enjoyed by developers under STIR and Rental 100 can include waived development cost levies, fast-tracked permitting, and reduced requirements to provide community amenity contributions, as well as other relaxations, such as minimum parking requirements.
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.