The City of North Vancouver’s rental unit inventory is under attack from redevelopment for land mass upon which to build new condominiums. The City is well aware of this vulnerability as it has received a report titled “Metro Vancouver Purpose-Built Rental Housing: Inventory and Risk Analysis” dated May 2012 ( Read Report ) in which report it states at page 24 that we are currently at “High Risk” of losing 23% of all available rental stock in the City, and this risk will continue to grow. By the year 2021, 40% of all rental stock situated in the City will be at “High Risk” of falling prey to redevelopment. A second study also done in March 2012 confirms these figures ( Read Study ). Both studies were done for Metro Vancouver by Coriolis Consulting Corp.
The effects of this assault will have devastating impact on the affordability of rental housing in the City, and on the quality of life for many of our long term residents. I can recite the names of many long time City residents who, for one reason or another, have lived most if not all their lives in North Vancouver yet never owned a home. Instead they chose to rent an apartment. The vast majority of older rental stock apartments within the City were created through a MURB tax incentive initiative many years ago. These units are of a livable size and come in Studio, 1, 2 and 3 bedroom configurations. Typically they have both a living room and a large kitchen dining area.
Today, developers are looking to tear-down these older MURB units and replace them with condominium high-rises which combine both rental units and privately owned condo units. The most recent version of this phenomenon is proposed for 161 South East Victoria Park. This development proposal looks to replace 12 larger older MURB rental units located in a 3-story structure, with a new 91 unit structure. 41 of those new units will be dedicated to rental stock for as long as the patriarch remains alive, after which time those units may be subject to re-tasking. Michael Katz, the architect, also admitted at the public meeting that this commitment to rental stock may not continue when the patriarch passes and the enterprise falls to new management.
On inquiry at the public meeting, the architect also admitted that the new apartment units will be much smaller than the current units located in the existing 3 storey walk-up. There is no commitment as to whether the rental units will be one bedroom, two bedroom or three bedroom, or a mix of all three types. Also, the rent will be much higher for the new 41 rental units, reducing affordability, not enhancing it. To achieve this project, the City and the developer are proposing to transfer density taken from park and road “right-of-way” property owned by the City. When did City parks and road “right-of-ways” acquire density? When did the City begin making available for sale and transfer park and road “right-of-way” density for purchase and use by developers? The answer to both questions is: “161 South East Victoria Park!”
At the April 14th 2014 Council meeting, a bylaw amending the zoning applicable to the Polygon property at 26o West Esplanade was approved by council. As part of that proposal, Council approved an additional 15,000 sq/ft of commercial space for the purpose of making permanent use of that property for lease occupation by “non-profit” organizations. Under the terms of the agreement negotiated by City staff and approved by council, the 15,000 sq/ft of additional commercial space will be leased in perpetuity to these non-profits at rates which must remain discounted by 25 per cent below fair market lease rates otherwise available.
A 4th Town-Hall meeting was held for Lower Lonsdale residents, the purpose of which was to provide input to the OCP process. The meeting took place on April 22nd 2014 at the Pinnacle Hotel. At that meeting I purposed City Council use its power to compel developers who seek to re-develop existing MURB rental buildings, to force developers to accept rental rate protection mechanisms designed to ensure our residents continue to have access to rates that remain roughly equivalent to those in place before the developments occur. This initiative would provide rent price protection for our older residents who have lived in these units for many many years, and who are unable to absorb the 300-400 per cent increases that will result from re-development of these older buildings. (See council feed from Town-Hall #4)
IT IS MY POSITION THAT the City should secure and protect the availability of rental units at inventory levels approximately equivalent to the existing rental unit portfolio size; and
A. I will support a policy where developers seeking to redevelop existing 2, 3, 4 and 5 storey rental units must:
- Ensure that the number of rental replacement units being constructed is equal to or greater than the number of rental units being destroyed; and
- The combined total square footage of rental replacement units must be equal to or greater than the combined total square footage of rental units being destroyed; and
- The developer must agree to provide each affected tenant with a written “first-right-of-refusal” option to return to the building at or near the unit they previously occupied; and
- The total rental rate cost of the new units, on a per square foot basis, must be equal to or less than the rental rate applicable for renting of the older units before demolition, adjusted for allowable increases in accordance with the Residential Tenancy Branch (“RTB”) legislation as if the existing tenancy had remained ongoing throughout the demolition and reconstruction phases; and
- The developer must agree to pay all moving costs (in and out) associated with a tenant who is displaced by a redevelopment project; and
B. I will support a policy where the Developer must provide, at minimum, two automobile parking stalls for each new rental unit or condo unit: and
- Where a tenant or condo owner does not need either one or both parking stalls: and
- Where the tenant or condo owner discloses to the City annually, the combined number of automobiles they lease/own and/or operate for which they require parking; and
- Where the number of automobiles owned and/or operated by the condo unit occupant requires less parking stalls than has been alotted, then that person(s) will be eligible to make those excess parking stalls available to a rental parking pool: and
- Any income derived from excess parking stalls shall accrue to the benefit of the unit occupier; and
C. I will not support a parking program where the income generating potential from excess parking stalls results in residents relying on the City’s already limited public street parking spaces.
When I find myself in a position to effect these changes, the policies and principles setout above will guide my decisions.