Vancouver is on track to implement a tax on empty and underutilized homes before the end of the year, Council will hear next week. The proposed tax targets Vancouver’s known 10,800 empty homes, incentivizing owners to rent out their secondary and investment properties as the city’s rental vacancy rate continues to hover near-zero.
Affordable Housing and Support for Renters
It's frustrating and discouraging to see Vancouver’s rental housing crisis impacting people of all incomes and neighbourhoods. An unprecedented near-zero vacancy rate and lack of quality, affordable rental homes have driven many Vancouver residents to pay far more than they can afford to rent. The stories I hear from tenants who are taken advantage of through bidding wars, real estate speculation, and renoviction loopholes in BC's Residential Tenancy Act are deeply troubling.
The City of Vancouver’s Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA) is taking steps to build 400 new affordable homes on four City-owned sites, worth $50 million. These sites are the first four of the 20 City-owned sites offered to senior levels of government to build affordable homes in partnership with VAHA.
Yesterday, I met with representatives of the “Our Homes Can’t Wait” campaign in the Downtown Eastside to discuss issues of housing affordability and poverty in the neighbourhood. It was a good meeting with a clear articulation from residents about their frustrations with stagnant welfare rates, rising housing costs, and a dire need for renewal of decrepit SRO rooms in the neighbourhood. I was joined by Councillor Andrea Reimer and several senior members of our housing, planning and community services staff.
Several agreements came out of the meeting.
I’ve been calling on the Province for over a year to take bold action on our overheated housing market and address the impacts of unregulated, speculative global capital on local real estate. The year-over-year price gains we’ve seen are not sustainable and put our City’s economy at risk. Today’s legislation is a major acknowledgement by the Province that they have an important role to play in the housing market and affordability is not simply an issue for municipalities to deal with.
Mayor Gregor Robertson and Council have approved a new social housing project in Oakridge that will bring 46 new affordable rental homes targeted toward seniors to the neighbourhood. The social housing, approved at public hearing last night, will be owned by the Oakridge Lutheran Church and Catalyst Community Development Society. The building replaces the existing one-storey church and delivers 15 studio, 15 one-bedroom and 16 two-bedroom homes.