Speaking notes: Broadway Plan
Building more apartments near rapid transit while protecting renters.
City council is voting on the Broadway Plan, and will be hearing from the public starting today (Wednesday May 18). There’s more than 170 people signed up to speak. I’m speaker #2.
Hi, my name is Russil Wvong, and I support the Broadway Plan. I’m a long-time homeowner and resident of Vancouver. I’m a volunteer with Forward Together, but I’m providing my personal views as a Vancouver resident, not those of Forward Together.
Whenever council has to make a decision on whether to allow more housing, whether on a large scale like the Broadway Plan or even for a single building, there’s always a battle between people who support it and people who are opposed. I sympathize with people who are opposed, because it’s natural to fear the unknown. Whenever a change is proposed, you don’t know in advance exactly how it’ll turn out. But on the other side, I would point out that the current housing shortage is really terrible, and the kind of neighbourhood-level veto that certain people advocate would make it even more difficult to build housing, making the problem worse.
The fundamental problem is that we don’t have enough housing to go around. Housing being so scarce and expensive, either to rent or to own, makes us all poorer and worse off. It’s really hard to see anyone who benefits from the current situation. One of the most surprising things is that homeowners don’t feel rich, even though they have massive gains on paper, because they need their home as a place to live. And of course it’s far worse for renters. With a vacancy rate near 1%, renters are terrified of losing their housing and not being able to find a new place without having to pay a lot more, move further out, or both.
Of course the people who take the time to speak to council are self-selected rather than representative, usually those most opposed. It may be useful to keep in mind that about two-thirds of the public supports high-rises at SkyTrain stations. The Broadway Plan process included extensive public consultations over three years, and about two-thirds of the participants supported it. Burnaby ran a one-day workshop on housing with randomly selected participants, to overcome the self-selection problem, and found very similar results, with 67% supporting high-rises at SkyTrain stations.
We need more housing, especially secure rental housing (which gives you secure housing without requiring a giant down payment), and the Broadway Plan is a major opportunity to allow exactly that. The plan is for two-thirds of the new housing to be rental housing. Condo buildings will only be allowed in locations where there’s no renters now, and they’ll need to include 20% social housing.
Some people ask why we need high-rises. If you’ve got a central location with easy access to lots of jobs within about a 30-minute commute, more people will want to live there, and so you get taller buildings. That’s basically the story of the West End. When local opposition doesn’t allow high-rises, it’s like pushing down on a balloon, it increases pressure and raises rents everywhere else, which is why Burnaby and Surrey are building taller buildings even though they’re further out.
I think opponents often assume that living in a high-rise is for rich people, while owning a single-family house is for regular people. In Vancouver it's actually the exact opposite: renting in a high-rise is like riding a bus instead of driving your own car. A 99 B-line bus at rush hour is big, but it's carrying a lot of people.
The Broadway Plan aims to start by building new housing on sites where there are no renters and nobody gets displaced, like the former Denny’s at Broadway and Birch, or the former office building at Broadway and Granville. The new high-rises include at least 20% non-market rentals, expanding the supply of badly needed non-market rental housing. For example, based on 2021 rents, the rent for a new 1BR non-market apartment in the Broadway Plan would be $1200/month, compared to $2000/month for a new market apartment.
When there’s an old low-rise rental building that’s so run-down that it needs to get torn down and replaced by a new high-rise, at some point in the next 30 years, it’s important to protect the people who already live there. With Mayor Stewart’s amendment, the idea is to make sure that the new building includes enough non-market rental apartments to replace the old rentals, and then you can move back into one of those non-market apartments, at your old rent, as if you hadn’t left — and while you’re living in interim housing, the builder is responsible for covering the difference from your old rent. This is similar to what Burnaby put in place after 2018.
So then you’ll be in a new apartment (although it may be smaller), at the same rent. And most importantly, you have security, unlike in your old building, because the new building is going to be there for at least 60 years.
The overall result of the Broadway Plan is a lot more new apartments, helping to relieve the desperate shortage of apartments for rent, while increasing the total number of affordable apartments in the area, and keeping renters in the neighbourhood.
Thank you for your time.
Agenda and reports for standing committee on policy and priorities, May 18
Broadway Plan - full text
Staff memo responding to questions from council
Burnaby's renter protections, introduced after the 2018 elections: renters can return at their old rents.
Kennedy Stewart proposes stronger renter protections under Broadway Plan - similar to Burnaby's, renters can return at their old rents.
Vancouver's Broadway Plan is a step forward and we can’t afford to fall behind. Op-ed by Kit Sauder and Tanya Webking, co-chairs of Vancouver’s Renter Advisory Committee. Kit Sauder on CKNW. Kit Sauder debating Brian Palmquist on CKNW. Clip.
City council should strengthen the Broadway Plan — and build a Vancouver for all. Op-ed by Albert Huang and Peter Waldkirch of Abundant Housing Vancouver. Albert Huang and Peter Waldkirch on CKNW.
On Broadway. Analysis by Jens von Bergmann and Nathan Lauster.
New plans map out a towering future for Vancouver along Broadway corridor. Vancouver aims to avoid the downside of density. Kerry Gold in the Globe and Mail.
The future is coming to Broadway, but the fate of existing apartment renters is uncertain. Dan Fumano in the Vancouver Sun.
Theresa O’Donnell and Matt Shillito explain the Broadway Plan. Kennedy Stewart on renter protections. Stephen Quinn on CBC radio.