The world’s tallest timber tower, at UBC near the old Student Union Building, is topped off ahead of schedule, according to the Tree Hugger Blog. Designed by Acton Ostry, it uses wood manufactured in Penticton by Structurlam.
…the building is fully sprinklered, the wood is encapsulated in concrete and drywall with a two hour fire rating, and the stairs are poured concrete. However Russel Acton also points out inherent properties of wood:
“Have you been up through forest fire country after a forest fire has been through? So you see all these trees? They’re standing and haven’t fallen down,” said Acton. He explained that fire will burn through the first layers of wood and then stop. “The reason why it stops is that in the depth of that charcoal layer, oxygen can’t get into the wood to keep the combustion process going.”
The blog post continues, reflecting on the critical issues of seismic and carbon footprint:
And of course TreeHugger loves it because wood is a renewable resource, and building with it sequesters carbon dioxide. In this building, according to Hermann Kaufmann, “the carbon stored in the mass timber structure, plus avoided greenhouse gas emissions, results in a total estimated carbon benefit of 2,563 tonnes of CO2, which is equivalent to taking 490 cars off the road for a year.”
Is this the future, or is it a one-off? Is it time to sell my shares in Ocean Cement?
Along with rising home ownership prices, continued low rental vacancy rates are of serious concern to residents, local governments and business in the Metro Vancouver region. Metro Vancouver’s new Regional Affordable Housing Strategy promotes housing affordability and diversity, with a focus on rental housing supply and location. Local governments are key to implementing regional housing policy direction. Join us to hear about the regional strategy and what some municipalities are doing to stabilize and increase the supply of purpose built rental housing.
Speakers for Sept 15 – Vancouver:
· Margaret Eberle, Metro Vancouver
· Andrew Merrill, Major Project Planner, City of Coquitlam
· TBC Tristan Johnson, Planning Analyst, New Westminster
The Guardian released a preliminary report prepared by Britain’s Royal Town Planning Institute on the state of planning in Britain, and the need for planners. Sure, this sounds like one of those studies, of course a planning institute will say that planners are needed. But here’s the thing-The Guardian’s Rowan Moore says a better Britain could be built if planners were given a chance.
“At one time or another, most people will have reason to be grateful to their profession – for mitigating the expansion of a neighbour’s house, for example, or stopping an open-all-hours club opening in their street. We take it for granted that noxious industries can’t pop up in residential areas and that historic buildings and green spaces have some protection. This is due to planning, an area of government that is nonetheless showered with exceptional levels of derision.”
Moore notes that the way planning systems are instituted in municipalities and regions is constantly changing to be speedier, deliver more service, and also to save money. Planning departments are being cut back in budgets, and developers and other governments want less red tape.
As reported by Moore “So it’s not surprising that the overwhelming majority of planners, according to a report to be published this week, believe that they cannot provide the benefits of planning due to the constraints and changes in their jobs. The report argues that reforms of the planning system often don’t work. It challenges the fantasy that, if only the bolts on the planning machine could be loosened enough, private enterprise would achieve the abundant flow of new housing that the country desires. It argues that there are economic costs to inadequate planning, such as uncertainty and the cost of poor decisions.”
Planning at a municipal and regional level can confirm livability and accessibility through planning that private developers cannot. The article cites Brindleyplace in Birmingham, where 12,000 jobs are now based, and Cranbrook in Devon, which may provide 7,500 homes.
“When building a kitchen, you don’t just plonk down a stove, sink and fridge and hope that they will end up in the right relationship to each other. You plan them. This gets more true as projects get larger and as space for building gets more scarce and precious, as is happening in Britain now.”
Both Britain and British Columbia are looking at how to provide affordable housing, create jobs, provide good accessibility and public transit, and create lively, sustainable communities. In British Columbia, there is pressure to cut red tape at municipalities so that buildings can be produced quicker, faster and cheaper. But is creating more buildings the answer to creating cohesive, connected communities? Can we really construct our way to housing affordability, enhanced public transportation, and better places to live without a consolidated comprehensive overview? Is it too late?
After tighter mortgage rules Finance Minister Bill Morneau introduced in December failed to cool the market, he sought to devolve some of the responsibility to the provinces and cities, with British Columbia’s move the first salvo in those efforts. A failure in B.C. could make it more difficult for the federal government to resist pressure to become more active.
“One thing that is very hard for governments to learn, and this is a new government very much in the learning process, is that there are some issues you don’t want to take responsibility for,” Dodge said. “The housing market in Vancouver is not an issue that the federal government really ought to take responsibility for.”
PT: Not the first time have the federal Liberals opted out of housing programs and policy. Most significantly, the Liberals under Chretien stopped new funding for the construction of affordable housing in 1993. Most provinces followed. The money that remained for social housing was only for targeted groups, and, as always, insufficient to address larger needs as homelessness emerged in Canadian cities.
It was assumed that the market could address the larger need for the kind of housing that gave most Canadians access to homeownership, as it traditionally had – and that it was largely local governments’ responsibility to facilitate its production.
It has taken two decades for the consequences of that abandonment of housing incentives and assistance to become apparent, whether for low-end-of-market or non-market housing, whether for rent or purchase, whether for tax incentives to developers or income assistance to the poor. And consequently there is now no simple policy lever than can address a generational need most apparent in places like Vancouver.
Jessica Barrett’s article in the Courier explores the long list of shortcomings in government policy to protect renters. We’re taught as children that the 3 essentials of life are food, shelter and clothing; clothing isn’t much of a problem, but can you imagine a society where food is speculated upon to the degree that shelter is currently here? There would be riots in the street.
When you live long enough, everything seems to come ’round again. The rental crisis of 1973, with a vacancy rate of about 1/5th of a percent, seems impossibly distant…
… but triggered the creation of the Rentalsman’s office, residential tenancy legislation and, eventually, the MURB tax-shelter program of the federal government.
Why was there a rental crisis in 1973? The Strata-Title Act of 1966, which caused a wave of conversions of rental buildings into condos, to the point that the city put a moratorium on such conversions that year.
Why is there a rental crisis now? The Strata-Title Act, at least in the sense that condos are much more profitable to build than rental buildings. The Herb Auerbach article a few days ago stated that clearly. Solution? Probably the same as in 1973.
Dear City Council Members and Palo Alto Residents,
This letter serves as my official resignation from the Planning and Transportation Commission. My family has decided to move to Santa Cruz.
After many years of trying to make it work in Palo Alto, my husband and I cannot see a way to stay in Palo Alto and raise a family here. We rent our current home with another couple for $6200 a month; if we wanted to buy the same home and share it with children and not roommates, it would cost $2.7M and our monthly payment would be $12,177 a month in mortgage, taxes, and insurance. That’s $146,127 per year — an entire professional’s income before taxes. This is unaffordable even for an attorney and a software engineer. …
Over the last 5 years I’ve seen dozens of my friends leave Palo Alto and often leave the Bay Area entirely. I’ve seen friends from other states get job offers here and then turn them down when they started to look at the price of housing.
I struggle to think what Palo Alto will become and what it will represent when young families have no hope of ever putting down roots here, and meanwhile the community is engulfed with middle-aged jet-setting executives and investors who are hardly the sort to be personally volunteering for neighborhood block parties, earthquake preparedness responsibilities, or neighborhood watch.
If things keep going as they are, yes, Palo Alto’s streets will look just as they did decades ago, but its inhabitants, spirit, and sense of community will be unrecognizable. A once thriving city will turn into a hollowed out museum. We should take care to remember that Palo Alto is famous the world over for its residents’ accomplishments, but none of those people would be able to live in Palo Alto were they starting out today.
If you’d like to look into the belly of the beast, read the comments on our local paper: Palo Alto Online. The loudest voices in the community feel that the desire to create more affordable housing is spoiled entitlement. Until renters, younger people, and people of more modest means organize, this problem will continue throughout the Bay Area.
Herb Auerbach is a long-standing real-estate development consultant in Vancouver – and the nstructor (with Michael Mortensen) for the SFU City Program course Real Estate Development from the Inside Out.* This op-ed has also been printed in The Sun.
ACHIEVING AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN VANCOUVER
One cannot open a newspaper in Vancouver without seeing an article about the housing market and the lack of affordable housing, including complaints about the influx of foreign money, unoccupied apartments, profiteering by ruthless developers, unethical behavior on the part of brokers, and the lack of government action.
In Vancouver many of these are real issues that are doubtless affecting the real estate market, and often negatively. Addressing these complaints, however, will not produce “affordable housing” and very little is written about why we need it in Vancouver and how we can provide “affordable housing”.
There is no magic bullet.
If affordable housing is not available in the market place then it must be provided through government subsidy, either subsidizing the buyer or subsidizing the seller. All the legislation aimed at regulation of the real estate industry, taxing foreign ownership and vacant apartments, won’t produce affordable housing but it does help produce money for the government’s coffers and those monies could, if earmarked to do so, contribute, to providing some of the funds needed for the production of affordable housing.
Why do we need affordable housing in the City:
Some have argued that those who cannot afford to live in the city should seek housing elsewhere, in the suburbs, or even other cities. Encouraging more housing in the suburbs increases sprawl, and requires governments to spend more funds for expensive infrastructure, transportation and services. Besides, cleansing the city of the less affluent will not render it more secure, or more socially or culturally viable.
The need for affordable housing, in the city, has been understood by the earliest city builders and placemakers. Alexander the Great said of Alexandria that it would “nourish men of all races” and that it would thrive by virtue of its diversity, not in spite of it. His view, as was the view of Emperor Augustus when building Rome and Napoleon III when re-building Paris was that men and women of all stations and all ethnicities are needed to create and maintain a vibrant urban environment, In its own way Vancouver is attempting to emulate these great placemakers of history, by assuring the vitality, diversity and quality of its urban life is achieved. To achieve this goal Vancouver needs not only high end condos but affordable housing.
What is Affordable Housing?
The CMHC (Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation which insures mortgages) defines affordable housing as housing (rent or purchase) that costs no more per month than 30% of a family’s before tax gross monthly income. In Vancouver, apart from the 150,000 or so who are seeking housing, there are approximately 150,000 households paying well in excess of 30% of gross income for housing.
Market Rental and Affordable Rental Housing
Sufficient affordable rental housing is indeed the real issue and the real challenge.. Private real estate developers will not build rental housing if it is significantly less profitable than building and selling condominiums. Rental properties have been less profitable because they require more equity, are riskier, because you cannot pre-rent apartments where as the developer you can pre-sell condos. So how can a city like Vancouver encourage the development and construction of affordable rental housing?
The Affordable Housing Solution
The provision of affordable housing in the city must be the responsibility of the City, not the Federal Government or the Province, and the City must be given the authority, the funds, or the ability to secure the funds, and be able to develop for itself the administrative and organizational capacity to deliver affordable housing stock. The solution requires organizing a variety of funding sources and mechanisms, applying a number of legal tools and tax incentives as well as the application of professional and entrepreneurial skills, with the “power” to act aggressively,
In addition to requesting tax reform as an incentive to developers the City should take the following steps:
1. Funds realized through extraordinary fees on real estate, including but limited to foreign ownership tax, land transfer tax, vacant unit tax, and CCAs should be earmarked for affordable housing;
2. Land should be made available by the City to developers for non-market rental should never be sold, but be leased for $1 or at affordable rates.
3. All new condos should include a percentage (up to 15%) of affordable rental;
4. Request the federal government to increase the depreciation rate for affordable housing projects, and return to making soft costs for non market rental housing tax deductible;
5. Request the federal government to provide the Cities with new taxing power and the ability to tap new sources of revenues, including tax free municipal bonds.
6. Demonstrate long term profitability to induce and encourage pension funds and privately owned REITs to invest in market and non-market rental;
7. Establish an effective robust housing department under strong leadership (a Housing Tsar) with the human and financial resources to meet housing demand and set higher goals ie; to deliver 10,000 – 20,000 units per year, through both public and private mechanisms.
This course provides insight into the industry for people who deal with real estate developers or want to learn how the development industry is structured, how it functions, who the players are, what motivates them, and how they interact. You’ll benefit from a variety of personal stories from developers with a wealth of experience.
An Item from Ian: Great quote by the Burnaby Mayor (not) on people getting evicted with no affordable place to go:
“And so it’s like if you want to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs.”
But the pressure is increasing on Burnaby.
Surprisingly extensive coverage by CKNW on the ‘demoviction’ crisis in Burnaby’s Metrotown:
In The Sun, a story on the provincial Ombudsman’s inquiry into the municipality’s rezoning process in its town centres:
Burnaby’s plans to “supersize” its four town centres by demolishing old rental stock in favour of high-rise condominiums will be the focus of an investigation by the B.C. Office of the Ombudsperson.
The probe is in response to a complaint from Helen Ward, chairwoman of the Burnaby First Coalition, who argues that the city did not follow due process in approving higher density, particularly around Metrotown, but also in the Brentwood, Edmonds and Lougheed town centres. The city’s decision has resulted in the demolition of older, three-story apartment buildings in Metrotown’s Mayfair neighbourhood and led to the loss of housing for hundreds of tenants, many of them low-income.
Corrigan’s response is the same as it is with providing shelters for the homeless: this is a provincial government responsibility – and it’s a mistake for local government to take the pressure off or assume responsibility for addressing affordability with their own resources or tools, other than facilitating supply.
He is, of course, right about provincial responsibility. But the Province has made it more than clear with regard to critical Metro issues – notably housing and transit- that they will not respond until local government takes on a significant part of the load. Otherwise, they have no political incentive to respond.
There is one area, however, in which the Province has sole authority about which they have so far expressed disinterest. Throughout the media, stories have documented the giant loophole of fixed-term leases used by landlords to avoid rent-increase restrictions. From the Courier:
Then came the news from their landlord of a 10 per cent increase in their rent — $200 a month. Why? Their fixed-term lease had expired at the end of July, opening a legal loophole increasingly being exploited by landlords who jack the rent by far more than the annual maximum of inflation plus two per cent as stipulated by the Residential Tenancy Act. The landlord’s justification? He’s selling a house down the block that fetches $2,450 for a similar suite. “Market rate, I guess,” said my friend.
As far as I know, Liberal MLAs in Vancouver have had no response or statements on rental issues, and no one seems to want to ask them. There have been no demonstrations in front of their offices. Meanwhile, the local Left helps take the pressure off the Province by focusing the protest on City Halls.
As we have seen with the foreign-ownership tax, so long as the issue is seen as a marginal one affecting only Vancouver or Metro, the Province is absent – until the polls, the media and the Opposition force a response.
At the start of the planning process, the planners opened their presentations stating that Grandview needed to increase density to meet projected growth under the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) since 160,000 people were coming to Vancouver.
This was later found not to be the case when the RGS was changed to reflect the 2011 census for a 148,000 population increase from 2011 to 2041. Further, the city’s consultant report from June 2014 confirmed, “The city has sufficient capacity in existing zoning and approved community plans to accommodate over 20 years of supply at the recent pace of residential development.” This is without including the Grandview Plan. …
This shows that there is no rush to create more city-wide zoning supply. …
Sam Sullivan’s EcoDensity in 2007 promoted increased density everywhere. After Sullivan and his NPA council were removed from office in 2008, Gregor Robertson’s Vision council rebranded EcoDensity under Greenest City. Then these older more affordable neighbourhoods were targeted for increased redevelopment which was an unwise shift of policy. Grandview is the most recent victim of this direction. …
Although there may have been a reasonable basis for some increased development along Hastings Street and the transit station at Broadway and Commercial, the vast majority of the neighbourhood has more to lose than to gain in terms of affordability by the policies adopted in this plan. …
Calls for a delay by Grandview-Woodland Area Council, MLA Shane Simpson, and MP Jenny Kwan were ignored. The whole 30-year plan was rammed through without adequate broad community input, and with policies that are contrary to key Citizens’ Assembly recommendations. Given there is ample existing zoned capacity city-wide to meet future growth, one has to wonder why there is such a rush by the city to rezone one of the most affordable livable neighbourhoods in the city without community support.
Again, Murphy’s main points: The City has ample zoned capacity to handle growth. Rezoning increases speculation, and raises housing and rental costs. Don’t do any more.
Is she right? And if they don’t agree, why doesn’t the City, its planners, and those in the development industry effectively respond with their own rationales and facts?
Murphy, with abundant documentation, lays out one side of a polarized debate about how we should respond to forces which are transforming this town in a way that is ripping it apart – socially, if not physically.
Why are her arguments not taken seriously – or at least responded to in the forums where the debate occurs?
“Yes, people still want the dream,” says Alyssa Isenstein Krueger, a broker with Living Room Realty and a member of the preservation group Stop Demolishing Portland. “They want it more than ever now, because there’s this huge fear that if they don’t buy now they’ll never buy.”
But the more people who want it, the fewer who are able to get it. One of Isenstein Krueger’s client families moved from Los Angeles to Portland for its bicycle-friendly way of life, but after they received a 90-day notice from their landlord, they turned into quick buyers. They wanted the same Portland lifestyle they were renting, on a $300,000 budget. They found it, eventually, 113 blocks east of downtown.
“It’s a much longer bike commute than what they’ve had,” she says. “But that was their compromise—we need to at least live within transit and bike lanes. They are finding their own new Portlandia.”
One obvious solution is to build more affordable multifamily housing in neighborhoods where people want to live, says Mary Kyle McCurdy of 1,000 Friends of Oregon, a nonprofit that advocates for sustainable neighborhoods. But Portland’s current zoning laws are stuck two generations in the past.
Almost half of Portland—45 percent—is zoned exclusively for single-family dwellings, she says, while only 10 percent is zoned for multi-family dwellings. It’s a stale reflection of the post-World War II world in which Portland’s zoning rules were drawn up.
“In the 1950s, two-thirds of our households were families. Today, two-thirds of our households [consist of] one and two people,” McCurdy says. “We’re aging and getting younger at both ends; we come from different backgrounds and cultures. We need to catch up our zoning with our families today and for the future.”
McCurdy is working with an organization called Portland For Everyone that advocates for changing some of Portland’s zoning laws to allow for more multi-family dwellings in single-family neighborhoods. If builders are allowed to build duplexes, triplexes, quads, courtyard apartments and more mother-in-law units in Portland’s most in-demand neighborhoods, she says, then families like the one from L.A. might not have to move 100 blocks east—as long as they’re willing to trade in their dream of a mid-century bungalow.
But simply allowing for more density won’t necessarily lead to more affordable housing, Isenstein Krueger says. In fact, Portland For Everyone will only lead to a Portland For Even Fewer as developers buy the homes families want and then raze them. Even if multi-family housing goes up in these neighborhoods, it won’t be priced so most people can afford it.
In her experience, it’s already happening. One couple she worked with recently bid $375,000 on a home that was listed for $320,000 in Portland’s Eastmoreland neighborhood. A developer paid $420,000 for the house, she says, and now has a permit to demolish it.
“This whole idea that anybody is going to build affordable housing to replace the demolished housing is a load of crock,” she says. “Nobody is going to build affordable housing out of the goodness of their heart. They have never done it and they never will.”
Signs of the city to come
… Not all of that growth is going to be close to downtown, Isenstein Krueger says, but also in outer suburbs like Hillsboro and Beaverton. For Portland to truly be for everyone, she says, the city should prioritize making those outer corridors more livable, rather than change the face of neighborhoods that lack the infrastructure to take on any more people.
“Why do we have to destroy what we have, and what we’ve had for well over a century,” she says, “to make room for these mythical people that may or may not come?”
But signs of this future, denser Portland are already happening in some of the city’s most popular neighborhoods. Brendon Haggerty who is on the board of the Richmond Neighborhood Association,* which includes popular tourist corridors Southeast Division Street and Hawthorne Boulevard. Sitting in his quiet backyard near Hawthorne, you can’t hear the tourist traffic over the sound of spotted chickens toddling nearby.
It is the dream of Portland at its most intense, but also one Haggerty realizes may soon evolve. In the new Comprehensive Plan, the lot two doors down from his house will be rezoned for townhomes. No one in the neighborhood, he says, should be afraid of change.
“They’re NIMBYs,” he says. “The dream of Portland is not compatible with an approach to land use that protects the privilege of incumbent property owners. … To me it’s unquestionably a social justice issue. Neighborhoods like this provide access to a lot of opportunity for healthful and prosperous lifestyles, that you can’t get in other neighborhoods, and we need to be making that available to as many people as possible.”
And here’s PDX’s version of our foreign purchasers:
The Californians are coming
… “Keep Portland Weird” is a tired aphorism by now, but the truth is Portland has always been something weird: a city that could interpose between West Coast giants without being touched by them. …
Another piece on the dilemma faced by our neighbours down the coast – from John Graham:
Here’s an interesting article comparing housing costs and development policy in San Francisco and Seattle, both going through tech booms – but only Seattle responding with a massive increase in supply.
“All options need to be on the table. If a taller, denser San Francisco will make the city more affordable, then it’s time we study how to make that happen,” Says Mission District Supervisor David Campos, who has, in the past, supported some of the most restrictive zoning laws in San Francisco history. For Campos, density may be the only way his residents can keep their homes.
Campos may be reading the political tea leaves correctly: I ran a small zip-code targeted public opinion poll showing simulations of a taller San Francisco to respondents and found that a slight (statistically insignificant) majority of residents support a Manhattan-like city landscape if it meant affordability (data here). …
Of course, not every city suffers from high-tech growth. Berkeley Economist Enrico Moretti credits Seattle for blunting the forces of inequality by supporting their tech hub with a surge in new apartments.
With the arrival of our new chief planner, Gil Kelley, previously from San Francisco, this current piece in The Guardian seems relevant – linked to by Durning, who pulls out some quotes:
…”well funded opposition…” Wonder if they have a CityHallWatch in San Francisco?
…”not to build is to displace …” –Renter’s Union spokesperson. After the Grandview-Woodland ‘debate’ … well, misinformation is a powerful tool.
“The tech boom is a clear factor,” said Peter Cohen, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations. “When you’re dealing with this total concentration of wealth and this absurd slosh of real estate money, you’re not dealing with housing that’s serving a growing population. You’re dealing with housing as a real estate commodity for speculation.”
But Cohen is quick to note that there are other culprits behind what some realtors peg as San Francisco’s $1.2m pricetag for a starter home and its tops-in-the-nation $3,510 median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: population growth, income inequality, history, geography. …
Since Kenneth Rosen moved to the San Francisco Bay Area 42 years ago, he has counted six boom and bust housing cycles.
The primary cause for the current boom, says Rosen, chairman of UC Berkeley’s center for real estate and urban economics, is something most cities technically envy: “Extraordinary job creation,” 30,000 to 40,000 jobs per year for the last five years in San Francisco alone.
Rosen figures that 70% of the new leasing and job growth springs from the tech sector. For housing costs to drop and affordability to rise substantially, he said, “we’d have to see a correction in that sector”. …
Compounding the problem of population growth in San Francisco is the fact that the city has built far too little housing for far too many decades. Since 2010 alone, its population has grown by more than 60,000, but only 12,000 new units of housing were constructed.
On the plus side, though, San Francisco is in the middle of one of the biggest building booms in its history.
Sonja Trauss is founder of the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, which the activist describes as “the increase capacity arm of the anti-displacement movement”.
“I want to remind everybody that not building displaces people,” she said at the hearing.
“I don’t really see any downside at all,” she said, “besides the fact that some neighbors might have to let their eyes pass over a new thing that looks different and unfriendly to them. We’re talking about places that people live, and I don’t think it’s worth it to save the way a house looks to deny someplace for someone to live.”
To which Monica McFadden, a self-described fourth generation San Franciscan whose children are “fourth generation Noe Valleyans”, replied: “We can’t allow one-person’s greedy wants to overshadow literally the quality of life of many.”
The Beaverton, always a reliable source for ideologically untainted news, weighs in on Vancouver real estate. Writer Jacob Duarte Spiel drills down to show how one clever but desperate local family has found a, like, totally exciting way to snatch a piece of the property bubble while it’s still expanding.
In an ominous procedural omission, apparently no neighbours were consulted and so given veto power over the purchase.
Ian – Memo to Vancouver: Whenever someone says that nothing can be done to make Vancouver more affordable … they’re wrong.
Rent control laws in the city of Paris are doing exactly what they were designed to do. That’s what France’s Minister for Housing, Emmanuelle Cosse, has been saying in recent celebratory interviews to the French media. …
According to figures released by Paris’s Rent Observatory this week, 30 percent of the city’s new residential rental contracts signed over the past year have come in lower than the previous contract for the same properties. …
In zones of high demand—a.k.a. the cities of Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Montpellier, Ajaccio and Arcachon—all rental contracts are overseen by an official observatory. This observatory estimates and fixes a median rent per square meter for a given area, separating the district’s real estate into price bands based on whether it’s furnished and the number of rooms.
No future rental contract is allowed to charge more than 20 percent more than the fixed median rent for the apartment’s price band. This not only (in theory) prevents galloping rent rises, it also provides prospective tenants with a clear marker of how much landlords have the right to charge.
That’s how it is supposed to work, at least. In practice, reports from real estate agents (who opposed the law) suggest that landlords are still getting away with charging too much in some areas. This is because it’s up to tenants to complain, and in certain areas many of them are prepared to pay extra to get the right apartment.
Still, even amid reports of overcharging, the overall proportion of overpriced apartments is falling, so the law is clearly having some effect even if informing tenants of their rights has remained an issue.
Sean Rehagg in the Globe and Mail writes that BC’s new tax on property purchased by foreign nationals is illegal. The illegality is based on a Charter Right as extended by our courts. Whether the illegality applies to such taxes applied on non-resident purchasers is not clear to me.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms forbids governments from discriminating on the basis of a list of prohibited grounds, including national origin. Canadian courts have extended those prohibited grounds to include citizenship status.
The new B.C. tax, which took effect Tuesday on properties in Metro Vancouver, is not restricted to people living outside Canada. It applies to anyone who is not a citizen or a permanent resident. It taxes people, including residents of British Columbia, differently depending on their citizenship status. There is little question that a tax applying exclusively to a group defined by one of the Charter’s prohibited grounds would constitute discrimination.
Mr. Rehagg notes Canada’s (and BC’s) tradition of discrimination, and links it to this new tax:
While the new 15-per-cent B.C. levy applies to foreign nationals, we all know the aim of the legislation is narrower: curtailing real estate investment by Chinese foreign investors. In this context, what is striking about the levy is how closely it parallels other attempts to restrict Chinese participation in the B.C. and Canadian economies..
. . . . In light of this history, it is imperative that we be cautious about policies that target people on the basis of national origin or citizenship status. The message sent by the new B.C. tax legislation – about who is welcome to participate in our economy and in our communities – matters.
Sean Rehaag is an associate professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University.
The rush to rezone fuels speculative land inflation that’s further exacerbated by unregulated foreign capital flows. The fact that the City of Vancouver already has ample zoned capacity for 20 to 30 years of growth needs to be considered before proceeding down this road.
Governments are reluctant to address the real causes of unaffordability, such as foreign capital flowing into real estate and selling citizenship through Quebec’s foreign investor program, whose investors land in Vancouver. These factors are disconnecting residential prices from the local economy.
Instead, the government points to simple supply-and-demand economics, even though that is no longer working. … Vancouver’s crazy real estate is being driven by land inflation leading to unaffordability in existing and new developments.
The so-called antidote of increasing housing supply through rezoning is increasing land value speculation and making the situation worse. …
According to a June 2014 city consultant’s report, “Over the last five years, the city has approved rezonings faster than the new capacity is being used. The city has sufficient capacity in existing zoning and approved community plans to accommodate over 20 years of supply at the recent pace of residential development.”
Emphasis is on the “over” 20 years, which could easily be over 30 years. …
With so much zoned capacity it makes no sense to rezone affordable neighbourhoods like Grandview (The Drive), which has so many affordable rentals, co-ops, social housing and multi-suited heritage houses.
So is Elizabeth right? The City has ample zoned capacity to handle growth. Rezoning increases speculation, and raises housing and rental costs. Don’t do any more.
Homeownership has been seen a vital part of the American Dream. But the rise in homeownership since the mid-1990s fed the housing bubble that almost burst the world economy. Is the decline in homeownership a reason for concern?
Mike Hager in the Globe and Mail on BC’s new foreign buyer tax, and what the Prov Gov’t will do with the revenue.
After trying to tamp down demand in Vancouver’s superheated housing market with a tax on foreign home buyers, British Columbia is now tackling supply, promising to use the tax revenue to fund affordable housing.
It is not known how much revenue will be generated from a 15-per-cent property transfer tax on foreign buyers of Metro Vancouver real estate, but Finance Minister Mike de Jong said it could be considerable.