Vancouver city council gives green light to ‘locals-first’ pre-sale housing policy


A controversial motion that would give Metro Vancouver residents first crack at new pre-sale condos passed at city hall on Tuesday, following much debate.

The motion, introduced by Mayor Gregor Robertson, was supported by Vision Vancouver councillors and Green councillor Adrienne Carr, passing 7-2.

LISTEN: Jon McComb discusses the ‘locals-first’ motion

The NPA’s George Affleck and Melissa De Genova voted against the motion. Fellow NPA councillor Elizabeth Ball was not present.

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The mayor said the outcome was a step in the right direction towards making housing more available for locals.

READ MORE: Vancouver city council to vote on ‘locals first’ condo pre-sale policy

“This is about access, and making sure local residents and people who work here have access to buy in those new projects as they open,” Robertson said, while cautioning the motion won’t solve everything plaguing the housing market.

“It may not have an impact on affordability directly, but it will give access to locals, I hope.”

The initiative is similar to one in West Vancouver where new projects would be marketed exclusively to local residents for the first 30 days, then to Metro Vancouverites for the next 60 days.

Under the policy, buyers would sign an agreement that they will live in the units and not flip them.

Bulk purchases would be restricted but details on how restricted have not been disclosed at this time.

READ MORE: Vancouver looking into new policy to market pre-sale homes to locals first

During debate, De Genova expressed concern the language in the motion could exclude refugees and foreign newcomers to the city.

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Following the vote, Robertson denied any suggestion that the motion could be viewed as racist.

“It’s really disappointing to see other councillors bringing up racism,” the mayor said.

“This has nothing to do with citizenship or race. This purely about access for people who live or work in Metro Vancouver.”

But De Genova said the motion will make it even harder for people new to the region — even other Canadians — to get a foothold in Vancouver’s already-competitive housing market.

“I think this is about making Vancouver an exclusive resort town, and that’s what Mayor Robertson and Vision Vancouver have done by moving forward with this motion.”

READ MORE: Vancouver developers want more townhomes. Critics say they’ll just be sold overseas

Affleck described the motion as too “prescriptive and restrictive.”

City staff are now tasked with developing a policy that would be included in the ongoing Housing Reset.

‘It’s a good idea, but it won’t work’

But a local property manager says it’s a good idea, “but it won’t work.”

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Michael Gellar who’s also a real estate consultant said the city won’t have the legal authority to enforce the new policy unless the city rezones a property.

‘That allows them to put in place a whole series of legal covenants on the title,” said Gellar.

READ MORE: Greater Vancouver apartment and townhome sales up 25% from a year ago

“They can covenant that a building can’t restrict rentals, you know a variety of things. But they can’t do that when a property is not being rezoned.”

He also questions enforcement, adding they are going to have a separate department just to check the sales of every project.

“I just think it’s unrealistic.”

He said a better approach would be for the city to call upon developers to volunteer to sell to locals first.

~With files from Emily Lazatin, CKNW