Vancouver election: OneCity seeks to end ‘apartment ban’ with sweeping housing plan

OneCity Vancouver councillor Christine Boyle announces her party's housing platform in the upcoming Vancouver election. Global News

OneCity Vancouver has announced its housing platform in the upcoming civic election, unveiling a suite of policies that could, if enacted, reshape many of the city’s residential neighbourhoods.

The proposal, announced Tuesday, would end what the party calls Vancouver’s “apartment ban,” allowing purpose-built rental and developments of up to six storeys in every part of the city.

“The political compromise between wealthy landowners and large developers in Vancouver has been to push new housing, particularly rental housing, into increasingly high towers on noisy, polluted arterials, while preserving a majority of the city for homes that are now completely unaffordable to the vast majority of Vancouverites,” incumbent OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle said.

“Our current approach blocks most regular people from living in many beautiful neighbourhoods of the city — It’s unjust and its failing most of us.”

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As of August, the benchmark price for a detached home on the city’s west side was $3.35 million and was $1.79 million on the east side, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

The benchmark price for an East Vancouver apartment was $702,100 and for a west side apartment was $829,700.

OneCity Vancouver’s proposal would end single-family zoning in the city, allowing rental developments of up to six storeys and condo developments of up to four storeys, with density bonuses for co-op, non-profit and social housing, along with an expedited approval process that would do away with public hearings for individual projects.

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It would also turn the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency into a public developer, with the right of first refusal on new land sales.

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Calling it an “end to business as usual,” with a “city council which has failed to act with the urgency that this crisis requires,” OneCity candidate Matthew Norris said the plan would also force developers to build more family-friendly housing with minimum percentages and unit sizes for two- and three-bedroom suites.

He said the plan would also “capture” increased value generated by the city’s soaring property prices and reinvest it in housing and extend the renter protections in Vancouver’s Broadway Plan city-wide.

OneCity is running for candidates for council, with Ian Cromwell and Iona Bonamis joining Boyle and Norris on the ticket.

TEAM for a Livable Vancouver mayoral candidate and incumbent Coun. Colleen Hardwick, who has been a vocal opponent of policies that would speed up development in areas zoned for detached housing, was quick to slam the proposal.

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“OneCity’s housing policy would remove any semblance of a voice for neighbourhoods in the development process — Vancouverites could wake up to find city staff have approved up to a 12-storey building next to their homes with no notice, no public hearing, no opportunity to be consulted,” she said.

“That’s clearly would be a disaster — right across the city. And it shows contempt for renters and homeowners alike, not to mention the democratic process.”

Vancouver Green Coun. Pete Fry said city staff have already been directed to probe the idea of upzoning across the city as a part of the Vancouver Plan, but said the devil remains in the details.

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“We don’t necessarily want to subvert public engagement with foregone conclusions, and I think it’s always important to get stats analysis,” he said.

“It’s important to recognize that when we make sort of sweeping decisions that aren’t kind of well vetted and stuff, that it can have significant impacts on land use, economics and affordability — so for instance, if we went blank up in every part of the city overnight, how does that impact land values across the city? Does that create more scarcity of land by driving up the cost of land?”

In an email, a spokesperson for the Non-Partisan Association said it supports “this additional supply in principal and agree with the general direction of this proposal.”

Incumbent Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s Forward Together said it would be releasing its platform in the coming weeks “which will allow voters to know where we stand on these and other issues.”

COPE candidate Jean Swanson said the proposal had some “good points,” but does not go far enough.

“COPE supports using a Mansion Tax to get the money necessary to actually build the non-profit housing we need. In addition, upzoning low-density neighbourhoods without signaling in advance that the increased value will be captured for affordable homes and amenities could lead to a speculation frenzy,” she said.

Vancouverites go to the polls to elect their new mayor and council on Oct. 15.


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