Vancouver council rejects proposal to freeze controversial rental incentive program

WATCH: A motion to suspend Vancouver's Rental 100 incentive program was debated in city council. Nadia Stewart explains.

Vancouver city council took a pass on a major re-write of the city’s rental incentive program on Tuesday.

At a marathon meeting, council voted to refer a motion by COPE Coun. Jean Swanson back to city staff, to be revisited in the city’s 2019 housing update.

READ MORE: Vancouver councillor calls for end to financial incentives to developers under rental program

Swanson’s motion took aim at the ‘Rental 100’ program, an initiative that provides financial incentives to developers that build projects with 100 per cent rental housing.

WATCH: Critics call for freeze to ‘affordable rental’ program

Critics call for freeze to ‘affordable rental’ program
Critics call for freeze to ‘affordable rental’ program

Critics, including Swanson, have argued that the program gives public subsidies to apartments that end up renting for far more than average people can afford.

“I am concerned that people are being demovicted, that the Rental 100 program is completely unaffordable, that it is pushing up market rents, that its gentrifying neighbourhoods,” said Swanson.

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“I think it’s worth a pause until staff gives its report back.”

READ MORE: Vancouver city council considers scrapping rental housing incentive program over high rents

Her motion would have suspended incentives for developers while calling on city staff to look at rental-only zoning.

In the end, council voted 8-2 against the idea.

“I think the motion was an irresponsible one to bring forward because it didn’t propose solutions, it just proposed scrapping a program,” said Non-Partisan Association (NPA) Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung.

“Vancouver has a dire shortage of purpose-built rental, we need to continue putting new units into the market. We know we need to have more units at the low and middle incomes, so we have to build on what we’re doing. But stopping the program doesn’t help achieve those solutions.”

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE — City of Vancouver says it mistakenly gave $1.5M break to real estate developer

City council is expecting two reports on the Rental 100 program later this year. The first report is expected this summer.

The city says 2,161 rental units have been built over the last decade between the Rental 100 program and its predecessor, the Short-Term Incentives for Rental Housing (STIR) program.

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-With files from Tanaya Beja and Sean Boynton