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Vancouver proposes infill incentives for thousands of homes

Steve Randall
Canadian Real Estate Wealth

Thousands of new homes could be created in Vancouver after city staff announced proposals to allow more infill options for character homes.

All of the approximately 12,000 pre-1940s homes across the city would be eligible for incentives to densify with coach houses and stratified units while retaining the character home.

The proposals, which will go to the City Council next month, also include:

  • Introducing laneway homes (rentals);
  • Increasing the number of homes allowed on a 33’ lot from two to three;
  • Introducing a new detached form for duplex that allows for two separate houses on a lot, with a larger house at the front and a smaller house at the lane; and
  • Permitting large lots to build a new 4plex.

Vancouver’s Mayor, Gregor Robertson, says that affordability is the top concern of many residents and that the proposals will deliver housing to meet the needs and demands of residents while keeping to the affordability measure of no more than 30% of household income being spent on the home.

“These proposed changes from City staff respond to the desire for people to have more housing options in single family neighbourhoods—neighbourhoods where they currently cannot afford to live,” Mayor Robertson said.

The proposals are part of the wider Housing Vancouver Plan and would potentially create thousands of new homes, especially in areas such as including Dunbar, Kerrisdale and Arbutus Ridge, which do not currently allow coach houses and other stratified housing.

Copyright © 2017 Key Media Pty Ltd

Vancouver looks at new housing options in single-family neighbourhoods

City looks at adding homes to single-family neighbourhoods

Dan Fumano
The Province

Vast areas of Vancouver dominated by single-family houses could soon be opened up for different kinds of housing, including more duplexes and laneway houses, the mayor’s office announced Thursday.

Next week, Vancouver’s chief planner Gil Kelley will present options to city council that could potentially bring thousands of new homes into low-density neighbourhoods such as Dunbar and Kerrisdale.

The proposed changes, following months of consultation, are meant to increase the number of housing options geared to renters earning $30,000 to $80,000 a year, and couples and families earning between roughly $80,000, and $150,000. 

“I am hearing loud and clear that affordability remains residents’ top concern,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a written statement. “These proposed changes from city staff respond to the desire for people to have more housing options in single-family neighbourhoods — neighbourhoods where they currently cannot afford to live.”

Anne McMullin, CEO of the Urban Development Institute, said even though the proposal won’t add a huge number of housing units, it represents a symbolically significant step.

“Single-family home neighbourhoods have been sort of sacred or untouchable, so we really need to have better use of our land,” McMullin said. “That’s where the difficulty has been, it’s not that we don’t have the land, it’s the zoning. So we’ve been building on 15 to 20 per cent of the land base. So symbolically, this is a very significant first step.”

But some observers were discouraged the proposals didn’t go further.

Adrian Crook, a co-founder of Abundant Housing, a non-profit group started last year by Vancouverites seeking to advocate for more housing, said he’d like to see those single-family neighbourhoods opened up for four- to six-storey apartment buildings, not just duplexes and laneway houses.

“The city seems to have chosen laneway housing, which is a very expensive housing form,” he said. “If you go on Craigslist right now, laneway houses rent for $3,000 and $4,000 and up … I know they’re sensitive to property value issues and the single-family homeowner voting base, but we need a bigger move.”

Reports will go to city council next week, and are expected to be referred to public hearing in the fall.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

New housing starts in Vancouver plunge 80 per cent from a year ago

Frank O’Brien
Vancouver Courier

Vancouver’s new housing sales have been on a blistering pace over the past two years and the inventory of new condos has fallen to historic lows, so it was a surprise to some when housing starts plunged through the first half of 2017.

Total housing starts in the city of Vancouver have dropped 80 per cent in the first six months compared with the same period in 2016, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), from 5,784 to 1,860 units.

Single-family detached starts in the city declined from 708 to 462 houses, while starts of condominium apartments fell from 3,290 in the first half of 2016 to just 880 this year, a 73 per cent decline.

“It is a surprise, considering the high demand,” said Vancouver real estate consultant and author Ozzie Jurock.

A report prepared for the Urban Development Institute, Pacific Region, found that, despite near-record construction levels, there were fewer than a dozen new and unsold condominium apartments in Vancouver in the first quarter — a record low.

Total housing starts across the Metro Vancouver region also fell, but by a smaller margin, to 12,200 units so far this year, compared with 14,840 in the same period a year earlier.

Increases were seen in the larger suburban communities of Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam and New Westminster.

Eric Bond, CMHC principal market analysis in Vancouver, noted that the number of homes under construction hit a record high of 39,141 units across all of Metro Vancouver in May and remained near that level in June. He suggested the downturn in Vancouver starts may relate to developer fatigue.

“The constraints on builders are very real in terms of the availability and costs of equipment and materials, which means further increasing the pace of construction is challenging,” Bond said.

Vancouver developer and architect Michael Geller said the lack of condo starts in Vancouver may be linked to a current backlog of applications. “[The developers] are probably waiting for permits,” he said.

© 2017 Vancouver Courier

West End residents to chime in on proposed 57-storey First Baptist Church redevelopment

Jessica Kerr
Vancouver Courier

Vancouver residents still have the chance to have their say on a proposed 57-storey skyscraper in the city’s West End.

The public hearing for the proposal, a partnership between Westbank Corp and First Baptist Church, and designed by late architect Bing Thom, continues at city hall this Tuesday. The hearing started on July 18 and had to be extended to July 25 due to the large number of speakers.

The redevelopment of the site next to First Baptist on Burrard and Nelson streets would also include seismic upgrades and restoration for the 107-year-old church. The proposal is for two towers — a smaller seven-storey residential building that would include 61 units of social housing and the 57-storey tower with 331 market strata units. City staff has recommended approval of the application with a number of conditions.

At 57 storeys, the proposed tower would be amongst the highest in the city. The Wall Centre across the street is currently Vancouver’s third highest building with 48 storeys.

As of July 18, the city had received 152 pieces of correspondence on the proposal — 74 in support, 77 opposed and one with questions.

Mike Jensen moved to a smaller building on Barclay two years ago. He said his main concern with the proposal is the position of the tower, which, he said, will be squarely in line with his building, blocking light and any views.

“We’re going to be completely entombed,” he said.

Jensen added that the development would not address the city’s lack of affordable housing — it’s all about extreme luxury, he said.

Those who wrote to the city in favour of the application cited benefits to the church as well as the city as a whole with the inclusion of below-market rental housing, new childcare spaces and the expansion of programs offered by the church. 

The public hearing starts at 6 p.m. in council chambers at city hall.

© 2017 Vancouver Courier

Eliminating rental restrictions will increase speculation

Lifting bylaws won?t ease the housing shortage

Tony Gioventu
Times Colonist

Dear Tony:

Is it true that the government is going to cancel the ability of strata corporations to enforce any type of rental limitation or restriction bylaws? Our strata is a 50-unit apartment building in Victoria and we permit five rentals. We also have two family rentals to retired owners and one hardship rental.

Our council has few complaints against any of our tenants — we treat them the same as owners, enjoy their residency and do not have any vacant units in our building. This has not always been the case, however.

Four years ago, we had a tenant who was disruptive, abusive to other residents and the council, and eventually had to be forced out by the strata.

The owner ignored our requests for assistance until we spent almost $5,000 on legal fees and threatened court action. When this was done, our council members were exhausted, the residents were fragile and the strata had exhausted far too much of our hard-earned money.

Janine M.

Dear Janine:

The information that you have seen relates to Victoria city council, which is asking the province to change the Strata Property Act to remove the ability for strata corporations to enforce and apply rental bylaws.

The act is provincial legislation and local governments cannot override it. At this time, there is no indication that the provincial government will remove rental bylaws from the legislation; however, as with any legislation, if there is enough lobbying and pressure, it is a possibility.

Across the province, there are 30,000-plus strata corporations with all types of bylaws and communities that permit, limit or restrict rentals.

There is no evidence that one type of strata operation is better than the other.

However, there is sound evidence in favour of well-run strata corporations with good communication between the council and residents, a healthy level of funding to ensure prudent maintenance and repairs, and the financial ability and authority to address problems before they become a crisis.

I am bewildered as to why anyone would believe removing rental bylaws is a solution to the rental-housing crisis in B.C. In 2010, the province amended the act to enable developers to adopt a rental exemption that applied to all identified units in a new strata corporation.

It was expected this would make a larger number of strata units available for rentals. What no one expected was the economic-speculation surge that affected real estate.

In 2016, CHOA undertook a detailed assessment of 16 target buildings of 50 units or more in Vancouver to identify if rental bylaws did indeed have an impact on rental availability.

Eight of the buildings were constructed since 2010 with rental exemptions, and eight buildings were pre-2010, six with rental restrictions. The outcome was surprising for everyone.

Buildings without rental restrictions had the highest vacancy rates, between 19 and 35 per cent, and the highest turnover of sales, indicating they were predominantly owned by investors or speculators.

Buildings with rental restrictions were generally owner-occupied, the permitted rentals were full and the vacancy rate was below 2.5 per cent in every case.

One possible conclusion is that this effect is the result of the limit on speculation combined with the age of the rental-restricted buildings. They are generally more affordable, established communities that are well occupied.

I would hope that the legislators seriously consider the impact on housing affordability and exposure to speculation before they consider removing rental bylaws.

For investors, there are many great unrestricted buildings available to enable speculation and use as rental properties.

If you want to voice your opinion to your local MLA, go to leg.bc.ca/learn-about-us/members and send an email.

© Copyright Times Colonist

Seven Peaks at 39548 Loggers Lane Squamish 70 townhomes by Polygon Seven Peaks Ltd

Squamish development?s refined style able to balance adult tastes with the ?kid in you?

Mary Frances Hill
The Vancouver Sun

Seven Peaks

What: 70 three-bedroom-and-flex and four-bedroom townhomes

Where: 39548 Loggers Lane, Squamish

Residence sizes and prices:  Homes ranging from 1,485 to 1,795 sq. ft.; from $699,900

Developer and builder: Polygon Seven Peaks Ltd.

Sales Centre address: 39548 Loggers Lane, Squamish

Centre hours: noon to 6 p.m., Sat — Thurs

The details make the difference at the show home at Seven Peaks, Polygon’s community of townhomes in Squamish.

Polygon senior interior designer Sofie Laforest and her design team use subtle fabric patterns, custom-designed millwork and bold sculptural beauty in functional pieces to leave visitors with the impression of the space as a home that embraces family warmth without sacrificing sophistication.

In the kitchen, fine touches make a big impact on texture and pattern, setting the room apart. Horizontal patterns on wall coverings, the intricately designed fabric of the kitchen island seating, moulding above kitchen cabinets and a warm, taupe-coloured nook that the Polygon team has crafted into a small lounge, all set the home apart.

 “Small details are always important. As a designer, you have to plan out the whole space, but it all comes together with the final little details. In essence, it’s the finishing touch,” says Celia Dawson, senior vice-president of design for Polygon, who leads the designers.
The crown detail was designed by Sofie Laforest herself as a sophisticated touch that unites the cabinets to the ceiling.
“Sofie designed a contemporary home with a West Coast simplicity. She wanted to finish the walls and ceilings with a sophisticated trim without the curves and details of a more traditional crown moulding detail,” Dawson notes.

Dynamic social and family living lies at the heart of the design of the Seven Peaks display. (Case in point: the designers’ joyful approach to decorating the children’s bedrooms). But Laforest and the Polygon designers also used this space to showcase the potential for grown-up taste.

Polygon can be relied on to include stunning sculptural artwork or functional pieces like lighting. The dining room chandelier steals the spotlight, with its spike-like fixtures; this abstract piece is bound to stimulate discussion during gatherings and sets a refined ambiance, Dawson says.

 “I find it creates a wonderful canopy over the dining table and creates a warm and inviting setting for dinner conversation.”
The opportunity to decorate children’s rooms gave Laforest and her colleagues free rein to play with colour and shape. The designers incorporated a suspended train track and a little loft house in the rooms. The classic pieces (refreshingly absent: branded cartoon characters) are sure to inspire nostalgia among adult home hunters.

“Kids’ rooms are always fun to decorate,” Dawson says. “Once you start having fun and letting the ‘kid in you’ come out, the challenge is only to stop the creativity flow, or tailor back.”

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.