The City of Vancouver has unveiled its full 10-year strategy for housing, with an emphasis on building and preserving rental units.

The strategy, which can be found in full here, comes after a year of studies and consultation — during which time Vancouver continued to be ranked as one of the most unaffordable cities in the world, and vacancy rates for rental units continued to be under one per cent. 

The new plan calls for 72,000 new units of housing in the next decade, two-thirds of which would be rental.

"It's what we feel is needed to correct that bias in the market ... so we remain a diverse city. That's the philosophy ... make sure Vancouver remains a place for all people, all incomes. That's why we've set this ambitious target," said Gil Kelley, Vancouver's chief planner. 

"There's some big moves that haven't been done before."

Key planks of the city's strategy includes:

  • The creation of 20,000 new purpose-built rentals in the city and business models to support 12,000 new units of "social and supportive housing."
  • New rental programs along the Broadway corridor and rapid transit stations at the Nanaimo, 29th Avenue and Olympic Village stations
  • Creating a dedicated renters protection manager to help renters explore their rights when landlords want to renovate or redevelop properties
  • A Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program to create dedicated rental housing through density bonuses
  • Creating new policies to allow townhouses and low-rise apartments in areas currently zoned for single-family homes, in areas "near parks, schools, public amenities and main streets."
  • Working with the provincial government to allow rental-only zones 

"That's one tool we need from the province that could be a game changer," said Mayor Gregor Robertson, in reference to rental-only zones that have controls on price.

"The city does have the power with rental projects at the beginning ... the problem is, as soon as there's a turnover in the building, the rents can get jacked up. If we have support from the province, we may be able to have a way to entrench more rent control in these projects we build, so they can't be bumped up into the stratosphere." 

The housing report comes the day after the federal government announced $40 billion for its own 10-year national housing strategy.

The report will be presented to council on Nov. 28, with implementation beginning in February 2018. 

VANCOUVER HOUSING PLAN

A City of Vancouver chart outlining its goals for new housing units in the next 10 years. (City of Vancouver)

'Complex and complicated'

The strategy outlined by the city relies on a number of specific policies taking place concurrently, including the rental pilot program, a "social purpose real estate incentive program" and a new tactical response team to look at rezoning parts of single-family neighbourhoods to allow row homes. 

It also dramatically increases the city's targets for new supply: the previous housing strategy called for 38,900 new housing units over a decade, 54 per cent of the new target. 

The president of the Urban Development Institute, Anne McMullin, says she's broadly supportive of the strategy, but warns, in order to be meaningfully implemented,it will require a lot of work by the city.

"It's complex and complicated, but when the city recognizes that you need to increase the supply of rental and affordable homes, it's a good signal that we're moving forward," she said. 

"There's a lot of policy. There's a lot of detail, and it can take five to six years to get things approved. We need to see expedited processing times ... we can't wait four years."

Karen Sawatsky, the chair of Vancouver's renters advisory committee, also endorsed the plan.

"There's a lot of great stuff ... but implementation is going to be the tricky thing," she said.

"[But] there needs to be a lot more rental housing. We said to the city it needed to amp up its rental targets, and I think it has."