VANCOUVER—The City of Vancouver has chosen several non-profit housing societies to develop seven sites of city-owned land into 1,000 units of affordable housing for Vancouver’s “working class.”
The seven sites, which are spread across the city and total $130 million in value, will be a mix of affordable rental buildings, managed by several non-profit housing societies, as well as two new housing co-operatives in the Fraserview neighbourhood.
That number falls short of the 1,350 “plus” units the city promised nearly one year ago when Mayor Gregor Robertson announced the opening of the bid process for the land parcels. That’s because one of the sites identified one year ago is part of a “large plot of land that doesn’t have infrastructure such as roads yet and is therefore not ready for development,” according to city spokesperson Ellie Lambert.
The new units could house as many as 2,000 residents and are targeted to single people who make less than $30,000 a year, and couples and families who make less than $80,000 a year, Robertson said at a Friday press conference.
The planned 140 additional housing co-operative apartments will be priced under a slightly different formula, one the city is now applying to existing co-operatives throughout the city. People who want to move in to those units will only be eligible if their monthly income does not exceed five times the market rent for that neighbourhood, said Thom Armstrong, executive director of the Co-op Housing Federation of BC. The cap on incomes will only apply when people are moving in to the new co-op units.
The plan is to build out all seven sites at once, work that will be coordinated by the Community Land Trust, a new agency being run by the Co-op Housing Federation of BC. There were 37 bids in total, said Luke Harrison, CEO of the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency.
Harrison said the Community Land Trust was chosen because the land-trust model will ensure the housing will remain affordable. “Land trusts are an effective way of separating the ownership of land, and in the case of Vancouver, the rapidly-rising values of land, from the cost of building and maintaining a home,” he said.
Armstrong said new financing models have recently emerged to fund non-profit housing developments, similar to the way pension plans provide financing to infrastructure projects. The Community Land Trust plans to use that type of financing to build out the 1,000 new units. Because the non-profit operators do not have to pay for the land, it makes it possible to offer lower rent rates, Armstrong said.
“It’ll be a wide spectrum of everybody that will come in,” said Tiffany Duzita, director of development at the Community Land Trust. “From people on shelter rates to the average, working-class here in Vancouver and providing a diverse mixture to young families just starting out, larger families who want to stay in their communities, and also seniors.”
The plan is part of a wholesale review of city housing policies intended to respond to an ongoing housing crisis, which has pushed many working Vancouverites to leave the city as both homeownership and rental housing climbed out of reach.
Jen St. Denis is a Vancouver-based reporter covering affordability and city hall. Follow her on Twitter: @jenstden