Changing zoning policy to allow more types of housing, introducing so-called thin streets to add more houses to neighbourhoods and creating a housing authority are among the recommendations in a staff report going before city council next week.
The recommendations are based on conclusions reached in the final report of Mayor Gregor Robertson’s task force on housing affordability.Both reports were released Wednesday and will go before city council at next Tuesday’s public meeting.
“Some of the recommendations suggest relatively minor changes that will enable the delivery of greater housing diversity and affordability, while others propose fundamental changes to the way the city does business,” says the staff report authored by deputy city manager David McLellan. “Some recommendations are relatively quick and straightforward to implement, while others are complex and will unfold over a period of several years.”
The four “high-level” recommendations of the task force remain largely unchanged from an earlier interim report released by Robertson, who co-chaired the task force with former provincial Liberal cabinet minister Olga Ilich.
- Increase the supply and diversity of affordable housing by having the city accelerate planning programs that increase density in large developments such as Marine Gateway, Southeast False Creek and the East Fraser Lands. Focus on “transit-oriented” locations and employ the creative use of underutilized city land such as streets.
- Create a new city-owned entity to deliver affordable rental and social housing by using city lands. Mobilize the community to support affordable housing through community land trusts and alternative financing models.
- Protect non-profit, social and co-operative housing that may be under threat. Focus on strategies to repair, renew and expand the stock neighbourhood by neighbourhood.
- Streamline and create more certainty and clarity of the regulations for builders and improve public engagement.
The staff report lists a series of “priority actions,” including immediately implementing an interim rezoning policy to allow for housing types such as townhouses, row houses and small duplexes.
Another priority is to identify and implement at least one thin streets experiment in Marpole, Grandview-Woodland and the West End. All three neighbourhoods are engaged in new community plan discussions.
The concept was publicized in June when former city planners Christina DeMarco and Ted Sebastian won a city hall-sponsored competition for affordable housing ideas.
A thin street would be created if the city cut 66-foot wide side streets in half to create 33-foot lots on which to build different forms of housing on the converted strips of land.
If the idea was employed in single-family zones, DeMarco and Sebastian, who also worked with Charles Dobson of Emily Carr University of Art and Design, estimated anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 units of housing could be built.
Other “priority actions” include developing a city housing authority that would be tasked with developing social and affordable housing. Similar authorities operate within Metro Vancouver and in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto.
The recommendations are aimed at finding housing for people earning between $21,500 and a combined $86,500 per year.
Vancouver has the highest housing prices in Canada and the vast majority of households have incomes well below those required to purchase even a modest condo.
Nearly 50 per cent of households in Vancouver headed by people under 34 years old spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing.
With the mayor’s Vision Vancouver party holding the balance of power at council, the recommendations are expected to be approved when council meets Tuesday.