Across Metro Vancouver, municipalities are diving into policy surrounding affordable housing and the replacement of aging purpose-built rental stock. More recently, in the District of North Vancouver an application from Polygon to tear down the Mountain Court apartment complex on East 27th Street, just south of Lynn Valley Centre and build 246 condos and 75 rental units in four five-storey buildings set the debate in motion.
The controversy brought to light during the Public Hearing process centred on the displacement of the existing tenants and the lack of District policy on affordability. Subsequently, Council (July 20, 2015) directed Staff to prepare a green paper (due Fall of 2015) regarding the retention of existing affordable rental housing. This paper will consider addressing landlords and stratas and could provide language to clearly indicate that “Council will not accept age or condition of existing multi-family structures as a rationale for redevelopment.”
This direction in policy is similar to what exists in Vancouver where a municipal prohibition on demolition of aging purpose-built apartments exists. A recent Vancouver Sun article by Barbara Yaffe states that growth in Vancouver’s stock of rental units has been stalled by this policy and that “while it is understandable that the City wants to protect existing, aged rental apartments and is concerned about displacing vulnerable, low-income tenants, they’ve basically thrown the baby out with the bath water by not allowing some of these almost derelict buildings to come down to be replaced with higher density rentals and perhaps some market housing.”
This combined with recent rental rate data indicating that Metro Vancouver rental rates do not reflect market value and that a rental increase “tsunami” is on the horizon, has some predicting that rent could go up as much as 20% upon unit turnover to meet fair market value. “Over the next few years, tenants will need to brace themselves as annual rent increases play catch-up and far surpass inflation rates.” – Vancouver Sun
The protection of older rental buildings could mean a limitation of new rental stock through redevelopment and this could perpetuate the supply and demand model which ultimately affects affordability of housing in the end.