Vancouver plan to build 72,000 new homes — and maybe restrict foreign owners — approved

Click to play video: 'City of Vancouver presents 10-year housing strategy'
City of Vancouver presents 10-year housing strategy
The City of Vancouver presented its 10-year housing strategy, and not surprisingly there is no shortage of neighbourhood groups opposed to the plans. Aaron McArthur reports – Nov 28, 2017

Vancouver council has approved a plan to build 72,000 new homes in a bid to see the “right supply of housing” built around the city.

What’s more, the strategy approved on Wednesday night, could possibly restrict property ownership by “non-permanent residents.”

The strategy passed at council with only NPA Coun. Melissa De Genova and Hector Bremner voting against it.

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The plan, Housing Vancouver, is a 10-year strategy that carries a series of actions aimed at building affordable housing, cutting down on speculation and providing more options for renters.

It calls for over 47,000 of the 72,000 new homes to serve as rental housing.

Among those, the city wants 20,000 to serve as purpose-built market rentals, 11,900 of them to be condos that can be rented out, and 12,000 to serve as social and supportive housing.

A graphic shows the City of Vancouver’s “New housing targets by type,” as contained in the “Housing Vancouver” strategy. City of Vancouver

As part of the strategy, the city is looking to build denser forms of housing in traditionally affluent areas such as Kerrisdale, Dunbar and Arbutus Ridge, which currently have lots taken up by single-family homes.

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Areas such as these have seen their populations drop by as much as 6.9 per cent since 2011.

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But the strategy also contains various measures to “limit the commodification of housing and land for speculative investment.”

To that end, the city wants to “[restrict] property ownership by non-permanent residents.”

To do this, the city plans on investigating what Australia and New Zealand have done to limit new home sales and resales to local buyers.

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson.
Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The move represents a change in thinking for Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson who, in a 2015 interview with Metro News, said the issue in Vancouver was empty homes, and not foreign ownership.

“The city’s primary concern is around empty homes and market speculation skewing the prices,” he told the paper. “Foreign ownership is a separate issue, that’s not something that should be a big factor here.”

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LISTEN: Simi Sara discusses Vancouver’s housing plan

In that same year, Vancouver planner Andy Yan carried out a study looking at expensive homes on Vancouver’s west side. As part of that study, Yan looked at land titles searching for non-anglicized Chinese names in order to determine whether the properties were foreign-owned.

His study showed that affluent homes were being bought by people who listed their jobs as homemakers or students, and that a number of them had Chinese names attached to them.

Last month, New Zealand banned non-residents from buying existing homes in an effort to calm housing prices.

Meanwhile, in Australia, non-resident foreign persons generally need to apply to the government before they can buy any residential property in the country.

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They’re also not allowed to buy existing dwellings as homes to be used as holiday properties or to rent them out.

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