White Rock council will follow recommendations of its rental-housing task force for addressing a critical undersupply of rental units and affordable housing in the city.
At Monday evening’s meeting, council endorsed 19 recommendations from the task force for incorporation in the current official community plan update. The task force reported that the recommendations were made “having considered the urgency of the housing crisis in the community.”
Among material provided to council members by the task force was a copy of the 2016 Metro Vancouver rental market report, published last November by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
According to the report, White Rock has the lowest apartment availability rates in Metro Vancouver, with a zero per cent availability of bachelor and two-bedroom suites and only a 0.1 per cent availability of one-bedroom suites.
The year before, White Rock had a 4.4 per cent availability for bachelor, 1.8 per cent for one-bedroom, and 0.2 per cent vacancy for two-bedroom suites.
The report says average availability for Metro Vancouver is 1.2 per cent, while a three per cent vacancy is considered a sign of a healthy rental market.
Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in White Rock is $893, which is below the Metro Vancouver average of $1,159.
The policy recommendations presented to councillors were separated into four categories: create new rental housing; expand diversity of strata/condo housing; support existing tenants; and, recognize secondary suites as a significant stock of rental housing.
The recommendations came from information collected from guest speakers, policy documents from Metro Vancouver communities and the Metro Vancouver Regional Affordable Housing Strategy, according to White Rock planning manager Carl Isaak.
In a document provided to council, the task force concluded that the city “has not seen any increase in supply of rental housing since the 1970s, with the results that the vast majority of the buildings which currently comprise the approximately 1,425 units of purpose-built rental apartment stock in White Rock are 50 or more years old.”
The intent of the official community plan recommendations is to make development of purpose-built rental apartment buildings an attractive option for potential developers, Isaak told Peace Arch News Thursday.
“It’s definitely a consideration that (some buildings) are at the end of their economic lifespan,” he said. “Some are really maintained well. It’s not that the entire rental stock is at risk, but it’s something that we’d like to see, some new renewal.”
The Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy estimated that over the next 10 years, the demand for rental housing in White Rock will be approximately 280 units. The city’s report says while that seems like a relatively small number – at 28 units per year – it’s been decades since a purpose-built apartment building was built in the city.
Notable recommendations include: reducing amenity contributions for secured market rental; waiving or reducing development cost charges for dwelling units operated by non-profit housing providers; reducing parking requirements; considering establishing specific bedroom mix requirements (e.g. minimum 10 per cent three-bedroom units, minimum 35 per cent two- or three-bedroom units) in developments with more than 20 units for strata/condo housing; and consider allowing secondary suites in duplexes, if the property can accommodate parking requirements.
The task force recommended that staff report to council every two years on the change in the rental-housing supply to identify if policies need to be enhanced or reduced.
A full list of the recommendations can be found here, page 140.
– with files from Alex Browne