City of Vancouver proposes rental-only zones, new rental czar to ease housing crunch

Click to play video: 'Report says Vancouver rents hit new high'
Report says Vancouver rents hit new high
July 2017: Report says Vancouver rents hit new high – Jul 19, 2017

The City of Vancouver is touting a new list of actions it says will protect renters and improve the rental market.

The city is creating a new position, the renters protection manager, whose job will be to inform renters of their rights when a landlord wants to redevelop their property, along with helping them navigate issues like permit information.

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Additionally, the city says it is changing its Zoning and Development bylaw to allow six or more people to live collectively in a single-family home.

WATCH: What needs to be done to ease Vancouver’s rental crisis?

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What needs to be done to ease Vancouver’s rental crisis?

The plan also involves an attempt to protect rental stock by forcing anyone redeveloping a building with more than three rental suites must replace all rental units.

Previously, city regulations only required that replacement in buildings with six or more suites.

Also on the list, a new pilot project to offer density bonuses to new developments that offer 100 per cent rental housing and that holding 20 per cent of their units for low income people.

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The city is giving itself 18 months to pick 20 projects that meet those requirements, and says it will require rents to be linked to residents’ incomes.

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Another — albeit vague — proposal being put on the table: “rental only zones.”

Where in the city such zones might be considered and what types of restriction the city is proposing within them remains unclear.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the City of Vancouver’s rental vacancy rate sits below one per cent.

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In July, a national rent-tracker showed the average monthly cost for a one-bedroom suite in in the city had climbed to more than $2,000.

And recently, businesses in the city have begun to report they are unable to attract workers, many of whom are being priced out of the region.

Back in March, the city announced a ‘“housing reset”‘ aimed at trying to reconnect the cost of accommodation with residents’ incomes, while speeding up approval for new rental construction.

Earlier this month, it also passed a new bylaw to regulate short-term rentals such as Airbnb, which it argued will free up about 1,000 units.

WATCH: Vancouver passes first short-term rental legislation

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Vancouver passes first short-term rental legislation

The provincial government has recently taken steps to close the so-called “fixed term lease” loophole, which allowed landlords to increase rents over the maximum annual limit by having tenants sign leases with move-out clauses. Renters’ advocates had argued that left tenants with no choice but to leave, or face steep rent increases.

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Further action on housing from the province isn’t expected until the February budget.

Canada’s federal housing minister is also unveiling a new national housing strategy on Wednesday.

A chance for working-wage workers

Meanwhile, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson hopes the changes will give working-wage workers a chance to live in Vancouver.

“Rather than getting way more luxury housing than we need in Vancouver – which basically turns into an investment for a lot of people – we get housing for people that actually live and work in Vancouver.”

A September report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation found Vancouver’s rental vacancy rate was below one per cent.

~With files from Kyle Benning

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