Discover more from Vancouver Needs More Housing
Streamlining Rental public hearing: round two
The Streamlining Rental public hearing continued tonight, with another four hours of presentations from members of the public (#11 to #49 on the speaker list). There's now 89 registered speakers, so it'll probably take another two evenings to get to a vote.
I was speaker #11. My presentation:
Hi, my name is Russil Wvong. I'm a resident and homeowner in Vancouver, and I strongly support the Streamlining Rental proposal. I don't work in development or real estate, and I'm not calling on behalf of anyone who does.
The Streamlining Rental proposal is consistent with council's goal of building more rentals, not just condos. In particular, making six-storey rentals legal in the C-2 zones, not just four-storey condos, should make it easier and faster to build rentals. For the last three years, whenever there's been a rezoning for an individual rental project, I think council has always voted yes in the end, it just takes a long time. No matter how small the project is, both supporters and opponents are afraid of being outnumbered, so they organize more and more people to speak. If you approve the C-2 rezoning, you'll be approving 2700 future rental units at once, instead of having to approve each project one at a time.
Fundamentally, lack of housing is making us poorer. Prices reflect scarcity; when we don't have enough housing, rents are high. After you pay for housing in Vancouver, you have much less left over. I can't count the number of times I've heard someone say that they have a six-figure income, but in Vancouver they still feel poor. Everyone feels stretched to the limit, like there's no way they can pay for a parking permit, or higher property taxes.
Right now we've got a severe mismatch between jobs and housing. It's not actually the weather that draws people to Vancouver, it's jobs. Unless we add housing faster than we're adding jobs, the situation will get worse and worse. Councillor Fry mentioned that Amazon alone has openings right now for 500 tech jobs in Vancouver. All of those people will need a place to live. They can't afford to buy a place, but they can afford market rents. If there's no available new rentals, they'll end up in the older, cheaper rentals, and a corresponding number of lower-income renters will get pushed out, or worse, into poverty and homelessness. It's like musical chairs, with not enough chairs.
I know a lot of people are skeptical that adding more housing will actually bring down rents. So let me put it this way: delaying more housing, while we continue to add more jobs, is making the situation worse.
Even long-time homeowners feel like they're getting pushed out. They have massive gains on paper, but they only benefit if they sell and move somewhere else. That's a huge cost, since most people like where they live - that's why they live there! So the current housing shortage isn't actually that great for homeowners, either.
There's other costs for long-time homeowners as well. Even if they're okay, they worry about where their kids are going to live, and if they're going to see their grandchildren. It's bad for the health-care system when hospitals can't hire nurses, because they can't afford to live close to work.
So I would describe the current situation as bad all around. For renters, they face high rents and insecurity. They're terrified of losing their housing and getting forced out. For first-time homebuyers, they face huge barriers to owning. Employers have a hard time finding workers. Even for long-time homeowners, it's a bad situation. Lack of housing is making pretty much everyone worse off.
I understand why some councillors are hesitating to make this decision. You can't make everyone happy. Lack of housing in Vancouver is a huge problem, and to fix it, we need to build more, especially rentals. But at the same time, you can see from the correspondence that a significant number of people are unhappy about the impact of building more housing. Of course it's impossible to build more and not build more at the same time. In the end, council has to make a decision.
As you heard from Helen Lui, these changes would benefit affordable housing projects as well as market rental projects. There's been a real cost to the delays, with affordable housing lost.
I don't know if this helps you or not, but majority public opinion is solidly on the side of more housing. A 2019 poll of Vancouver residents found that 70% wanted more housing, and only 20% were opposed to six-storey buildings in their own neighbourhoods.
Thank you for your time.
Video from round two, November 4
Live tweets from Peter Waldkirch
Correspondence: as of Thursday at 4 pm, 280 in support, 324 opposed
List of speakers (spellings may be incorrect):
6:45 Russil Wvong (support)
19:30 Hilary Reid (oppose)
27:53 Brian Palmquist (oppose)
44:07 Siew Baxter (support)
50:10 Justin Hoffmann, Alpen Club (support)
54:58 Henry Looper (oppose)
1:01:15 Henry Han (support)
1:06:25 Roberta McDonald (support)
1:08:45 Craig Gay (oppose)
1:17:25 Nathan Davidowicz (oppose)
1:22:50 Natasha Shulman (oppose)
1:28:28 Patrick Condon (oppose)
1:51:25 Stefan Brunhoff (oppose)
2:09:00 Stuart Smith (support)
2:33:30 Rhiannon Fox (support)
2:38:50 Nasim Zoubeiri (support)
2:43:00 Marlene Wickland (oppose)
2:54:48 Jon Stovell, UDI (support)
2:58:21 Stephen Bohus (oppose)
3:06:36 Ben Han (support)
3:24:35 Joan Bunn (oppose)
3:30:05 Bill Tieleman (oppose)
3:45:20 Chris Flerledge (oppose)