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Speaking notes: False Creek North non-market housing
660 non-market rental apartments
There’s a public hearing on Thursday that will consider a number of rezonings, including a rezoning for three non-market sites in False Creek North. So far it’s gotten 27 letters in opposition and three in support. I’ve signed up to speak.
Hi, my name is Russil Wvong. I’m calling in to support this plan. I'm a long-time Vancouver resident. I’m a homeowner, but I know a lot of people who aren’t. I’m a member of a pro-housing group called VANA, the Vancouver Area Neighbours Association.
You sometimes hear housing skeptics say, “We don’t need more housing, we need more affordable housing.” Personally I think they’re very wrong - we need way more of both. But it’s certainly true that there’s a huge shortage of housing that’s affordable to people with regular jobs.
There’s limits to how much non-market housing you can build, because unlike market housing, it typically requires public subsidy. But when there’s an opportunity to get 660 non-market homes built, fully funded by the province, we should say yes. For city taxpayers, it would be far more expensive to fund it through city taxes.
In terms of benefits, more than half of people in Vancouver rent. Because we don’t have enough rental housing, reflected in super-low vacancy rates, rents have to rise to unbearable levels to push people out. People who rent in Vancouver feel like they’re hanging on by their fingernails. And then when Covid hit, more people suddenly working from home meant that the shortage of residential space has gotten even worse.
This non-market housing will help, even for renters who don’t end up living there themselves. When there’s 660 renter households living in non-market rentals, that’s 660 fewer households competing against everyone else for market rentals. When we’re trying to increase the number of homes available for people to rent, everything helps.
My understanding is that when the former Expo Lands were being planned for redevelopment, 40 years ago, the goal was always to have it be mixed-income, with 20% non-market homes. In the 1990s, there were about 500 non-market homes built, but there’s been long delays in getting these last six sites developed.
There’s zero displacement, since nobody’s living there now.
The target of 30% low-end-of-market, 50% lower-income, and 20% deeply affordable seems reasonable to me.
By the way, reading through the comments from opponents, my impression is that when they hear “social housing,” it’s a pretty vague term. They naturally think that you’re talking about supportive housing, in other words housing for people who are homeless or destitute, because “social housing” and “supportive housing” sound similar.
I’d suggest that talking about “non-market” or “below-market” housing would be less confusing. Even the lower-income housing would be rented by people with a substantial household income, up to $60,000 for a 1BR or studio.