Posted by Dr. Hamdy El-Rayes, August 10, 2018
Solve the housing crisis
The City of Vancouver has been going through the worst housing crisis ever. The majority of the millennials are unable to afford to buy a home to call their own. The crisis has extended from unaffordability of owning to unavailability of an affordable rental housing. Rental property inventory is less than 0.6%. At the same time, Vancouver houses more than 50,000 UBC students.
- The cost of building a housing unit on UBC campus is 90% lower than building a similar unit in Vancouver (considering land price, building permit fees, etc.).
- It makes sense to build housing at UBC campus to alleviate the rental-housing crisis & the transportation problem on the Broadway corridor. It will free low-rental housing to the working people in Vancouver.
- About 25% of the city households live on less than $35,000 a year. The City is in dire need to protect existing low-rental housing inventory from demo-eviction and establish bylaws to secure housing for tenants in case of developers request demolition of their buildings.
- How could we have “affordable housing” if the city of Vancouver is charging the developer more than 37% of the cost of construction in taxes and fees?
Although the City of Vancouver has reached its lowest inventory of rental properties, it allowed Airbnb and created a bylaw that the City Hall admits it is unable to enforce. The Council should have disallowed Airbnb until the city has enough inventory to accommodate people who want to live and work in Vancouver.
As a councilor, I would:
- Encourage the City to partner with UBC to build housing for its students on campus. Revenues from this project could be used to build more social and co-op housing at no cost to the taxpayers.
- Protect low-rise renters by rezoning the areas of low-rises rental apartments (especially around the Broadway corridor) as rental only zones to prevent developers from demolishing and converting them into condominiums sold overseas to foreign investors.
- Review of the development tax structure in the City and audit its operational costs to cut the excesses.
- Give rental housing projects and condominium (for the first-time buyer) priority in building permits over luxury condominiums that attract foreign investment. At the same time, I would seek to lower the permit costs to increase affordability whether built to rent or own.
- Ban sales of homes to foreigners until we solve the current crisis (as New Zealand did).
- Disallow Airbnb until the city has enough rental inventory to accommodate its residents and be able to enforce its bylaw.
- Renew co-op leases to support affordable housing.
Supporting information for this Project
All universities in North America accommodate their students, faculty, and staff on and around campus. Areas around campus are usually affordable rental apartment buildings.
Today, UBC has more than 65,000 of students, with 56,000 of them living in Vancouver. In the past 25 years, UBC has had its land on campus to build luxury housing unaffordable for students to rent. As a result, students have to live far away from the university using low-rent housing in Vancouver.
With a large number of immigrants in the past 20 years, accommodating these students in Vancouver became a drain on its rental housing inventory.
The city has very little influence to increase the inventory of low-rental housing and the new rental housing is usually beyond the means of seniors and low-wagers. Consequently, the city needs to take serious measures to recover the existing inventory from the temporary resident students who could be accommodated on campus.
The cost of construction to accommodate a student on UBC campus would be 10% of the cost of building a similar unit in Vancouver due to land prices and taxes the city charges. This could be a joint project between UBC and the City of Vancouver. UBC contributes the land and the City invests the cost of construction of the building. The revenues of this joint project could be used to build social and coop housing.
Benefits of this project:
- The city would solve the inventory of rental housing in less than a year.
- The city would not have to build the extremely expensive underground train at Broadway Street and replace it with light street electric cars at a third of the cost.
- Air pollution generated from the traffic to and from UBC would significantly decrease.
- The rise in rent within Vancouver would pause and may go down to match the income of the renters. (Supply would exceed the demand).
- The rise in prices of condominiums will level off for a while as the working people would be able to take a breather: rent an apartment, and wait until they accumulate enough money to buy their own condominium.
- This project would stop the incoming wave of displacing renters of low-rises along the Broadway corridor whose buildings will be demolished to build high-rises where they could neither own or afford renting.
Rental only rezoning
Rental Housing Inventory
The City of Vancouver has been going through the worst housing crisis ever. The majority of the millennials are unable to afford to buy a home to call their own. The crisis has extended from unaffordability of owning to unavailability of an affordable rental housing. Today, 25% of the households in Vancouver live on less than $35,000 per year. They are at risk of becoming homeless especially with diminishing rental-housing inventory, and the exponential rise in housing rents associated with demo-evictions and reno-evictions.
Evidently, the City of Vancouver’s plans includes densification by demolishing and replacing low-rise low-rent apartments with high rises. The City does not think of the risk of turning most of the low-income renters of these buildings homeless. If the Broadway subway construction continues as planned, the Broadway Corridor low-rises would be very vulnerable to demoeviction. The new high-rises would not be affordable for these evicted tenants (to rent or own).
Protection of the rental inventory in Vancouver
The city of Vancouver has a large inventory of low-rise low rental buildings. The renters at these buildings cannot afford to buy a condominium or rent a new apartment because the cost is beyond their means. These low rises will be targeted for replacement with high-rises. The tenants of these low-rises need to be protected because if they are demo-evicted, they will turn homeless. They can neither afford to rent or buying in the high rise and there is no affordable rental housing in Vancouver. As happened in Metro town in Burnaby, more than 1000 families became homeless because of the demo-eviction practice.
The city needs to assign the low-rises rental areas as rental only zones and be available for local owners only. Consequently, these building will not be enticing for speculators who would know that they have to accept low margin as a return on their investments.
This approach will stabilize rents in Vancouver and would moderate the prices of condominiums in general. It will also bring peace of mind to those who are distraught about their vulnerability to homelessness because of their low-income as happened in other cities around the world.
In the past 10 years, housing in Vancouver turned into a commodity to global buyers. Many overseas foreign investors and speculators created a bubble in real estate in Vancouver which would jeopardize the future of the city’s lively culture.
Overseas foreign investments and money from illegal local and foreign activities used the real estate in Vancouver as a place to park/launder their money. As a result, living in Vancouver became unaffordable for the working people. Thousands of the millennials have left Vancouver because they cannot afford to own a home or finding an affordable place to rent.
Drastic measures have to be taken to maintain the working force in Vancouver otherwise, it will turn into a ghost city.
This coming year, the new mayor and council need to give priority to permits to build rental housing and condominiums for first-time buyers and be assigned for locals only, over those demanding building permits for luxury housing. Also, the city has to review the cost of permitting because the current costs are outrageous and unacceptable under the current housing crisis they created in the first place.