British Columbia

Q&A: Vancouver's mayor says new housing plan aims to create 'dramatically more affordable housing'

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson takes questions on the city's new housing strategy on CBC Radio One's On the Coast.

Plan emphasizes affordable housing density, says Gregor Robertson

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says the new plan gives the city the tools it needs to approve a lot more housing projects. (CBC News)

The City of Vancouver has released more details of its 10-year housing plan.

The city plan calls for 72,000 units of housing to be built within a decade, with two-thirds being rentals. It also wants to create dedicated rental-only zones.

Vancouver continues to have a vacancy rate under one per cent and an international ranking as one of the most unaffordable cities in the world.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson explained the plan's new details during an interview with CBC's On the Coast host Stephen Quinn.

How will this new plan turn things around and actually address the issue of housing affordability?

Given the scale of the challenge, it's daunting ... but this plan targets several things. One is creating dramatically more affordable housing than we've ever done before ...

We're already at record levels, but we're seeing about a 50 per cent increase which puts it over 7,000 units of affordable housing a year ... over the next 10 years. [The City] is making sure the supply is tied to local incomes here in Vancouver.

We're also protecting the rental housing we have ... [We're] regulating Airbnb and condo presales to locals first and foremost.

We're going to be hiring 75 new staff if the budget goes through, to make sure we can process the affordable housing proposals that come through a lot faster to get the new housing built.

When first elected, you pledged to end homelessness in the city. Why should people believe the next 10 years is going to be any different than the last 10 years?

We are where we are, but that means everything we do at this point has to create more affordable housing supply. There was still a lot of push back on development in the past decade. That's really shifted in the last year or so.

There's a lot more concern about young people not being able to stay in the city and seniors not being able to find a place in the neighbourhood they've lived in.

We've really got to create more supply, particularly in the single family home neighbourhoods ... That's the message we got loud and clear over this past year.

The city has approved luxury condo after luxury condo that are unaffordable to a great number of Vancouver residents.  

We've now got the tools we need to make sure when we build additional housing, that it's tied to local incomes ... that means we have to approve significantly more homes ...

If it's just left to the market ... It will automatically drift to luxury housing. Landowners have the right to build whatever fits within the zoning. The city can't control that.

The City controls zoning.

We do control the zoning. But existing zoning ... People can build to that within their rights and they'll sell at market prices.

So, when we add additional density, when we create that incentive, then we can tie the prices to more affordable levels.

How do you ensure the rents stay affordable?

We are seeing more protections for renters across the province ... The city does have the power, while approving rental projects, to set the rent at the beginning ... As soon as there's a turnover in the building, the rent can get jacked up ... If we have support from the province ... we may have a way to entrench more rent control going forward.

With files from On the Coast 

This interview has been edited for clarity and structure. To hear the complete interview, click on the audio below.


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