The City of Vancouver announced details today of a pilot project that will test the feasibility of requiring all new rental buildings in the city to include at least 20 per cent below-market rental units.

The regulations will be tested in the Oakridge "municipal town centre," an area along the rapidly densifying Cambie corridor that the city has identified as a prime hub for new development.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said the move is one of many the city is making to better housing affordability for the city's middle income earners, which he defined as people making between $30,000 and $80,000 a year.

"As we all probably know by now, over half of Vancouverites do rent, so making sure we're building rental housing has been a key priority for us for almost nine years at council now," Robertson said.

"The key thing now is tying those rents to the incomes that people make here in Vancouver."

According to chief city planner Gil Kelley, the proposed units would rent at $850 to $1000 per month for a studio, $1250 to $1500 for a one bedroom, and $1700 and $2100 per month for two bedroom units.

Incentives to build rentals

Kelley says the proposal comes at a time when developers are increasingly looking at creating rental units after years of prioritizing condominiums.

"For the private developers, rental is now ... a financially feasible form of development and it's attractive because it's a long term steady income for them," he said.

Listen to Gil Kelley on CBC's The Early Edition:

The proposal includes incentives to encourage developers to build rental stock, such as increased allowable density and relaxed parking requirements compared to condos, and fee waivers for affordable rental units.

New condo buildings, where units are for ownership, are already required by the city to include a 30 per cent social housing component. The new proposed regulations would apply to rental buildings.

Susan Haid, assistant director of the city's planning department, said the project will require all mid- and high-rise towers in the area to be 100 per cent rental.

"This will really deliver a big bump in terms of affordable housing [in Oakridge]," Haid said.

Robertson said he expects the pilot project to last several years. Initial indications of how well the program is working are expected to be made public within a year.