Support for two rezonings to allow for purpose-built rental units

At tonight’s (July 12) meeting, Vancouver city council will be considering two applications to rezone land for purpose-built rental housing. The addresses of the sites are 2805 E. Hastings and 445 Kingsway. My letter in support of 2805 E. Hastings is below. The circumstances of 445 Kingsway are much the same, so I haven’t posted that letter. If approved, together the two proposals will add 200 units of purpose-built rental housing to the city’s rental housing supply.

Dear Mayor and Council,

I write to support the rezoning of 2805 East Hastings to CD-1 zoning to permit a six-storey rental building with 91 secured market rental units.

I support this application for several reasons, the main one being the city’s dire need for more purpose-built rental housing. As I know you’re aware, the city’s vacancy rate for private apartments like the ones proposed here was 0.6% as of late 2015 and in fact the city’s vacancy rate has averaged under 1% for about the last 30 years. Industry and housing experts generally point to a healthy vacancy rate being as being at least three percent. The lack of rental housing has severe and far-reaching consequences for Vancouver’s renters and also the city’s ability to have a functioning economy, as was recently noted in the “Rent Race” report published by Vancity Credit Union. That report noted that renters are dispersed “throughout the entire economy—working as health and education professionals, in construction, finance, social assistance, and other industries” and that “renter workers making median incomes in several industries face the real possibility of being priced out of the communities they call home.”

I would further like to note that renters are present in all age groups in Vancouver, making the lack of rental housing a problem that affects a wide segment of our local population. According to the report, the renter population is comprised of 33% millenials, 30% Gen X, 26% baby boomers and 11% those aged 70 or older (page 4).

While currently just over half of Vancouver’s households are renters, this percentage has declined since 1991 (when it was 59 percent, see page 24 of linked report). As a renter myself, I am concerned about this trend and what it suggests for the future of renters in our city. The city also has a low rate of purpose-built rentals per capita – less than other cities that have a lower percentage of renting households, which also points to the great need for rental housing such as is being proposed here.

PB rentals by city per capita

Source: Ian Meredith @ian_meredith, Altus Group

Adding a lot more new secured rental supply is necessary to deal with our current shortages and in the shorter-term gives more choices to renters, which makes life easier for them and gives them a bit more housing security.

In terms of this specific application, I see that the proposed building would not displace any existing renters and that it would replace a fast-food franchise and a surface parking lot.

It’s located in an area where there are many shops, services and public transit to meet the needs of the future residents. Those future residents will also be customers for the area’s many small businesses. All these factors point to this building being a great benefit to our city.

I am also pleased to see that this project includes 34 two-bedroom and five three-bedroom units, which will provide much-needed family-friendly housing. I see as well that, in keeping with the city’s guidelines for housing families at high densities, this proposal includes common amenity space both indoors and outdoors and that is another reason why I support it.

I also note and support the condition of bylaw enactment (7(iii)) that says none of the units shall be rented for less than one month at a time, because this helps ensure that these units are not rented out as short-term rentals to tourists instead of serving their intended purpose as housing for residents.

For all these reasons, I support this project and urge you to do the same.

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