Property at West Broadway and Birch streets in Vancouver. There is a proposal to build a 28-storey rental building on this site of the former Denny’s location.
Arlen Redekop / PNG
Over the years, we’ve expounded persistently on the controversies surrounding Metro Vancouver’s rental housing. Not all the feedback has been pleasant. City of Vancouver staff have rebuked us for what they consider inappropriate comments and for encouraging speculation in the market. We’ve also faced derision for our calls on reducing restrictions on the rental industry.Conversely, apartment owners, developers, LandlordBC and the Urban Development Institute have supported our thoughts on encouraging new rental supply.Now, as the runaway train of prices for Metro Vancouver’s residential real estate has been slowing down, many voices are weighing in with opinions on the state of purpose-built rentals. In recent speeches at the Vancouver Real Estate Forum and the UDI seminar “Challenges of Creating Viable Rental Housing,” we’ve suggested this: “Vancouver, we have a problem.”Media, landlords, tenants, real-estate consultants, economists and all levels of government are speaking up. Some politicians are even using their municipal seats in public hearings as soapbox opportunities to espouse their views — some well researched and knowledge-based, others not so much.It’s said that we get what we deserve, but do Vancouverites really deserve viscerally reactive, short-sighted politicians with scant business acumen and even less prowess in the complex development industry to guide the future of our rental housing?What’s really causing such a perfect storm of political absurdity? It’s a witch’s brew in our estimation. First of all, it’s a political sellout of unprecedented proportions as most of Vancouver’s council members have taken the expedient route of acting against citizens’ best interests.Their voting record on new rental projects speaks volumes.Secondly, it’s quite a sight to witness traditionally left and right politicians banding together against the delivery of new secure housing, albeit for different reasons. Must the status quo be protected at all costs? Has scarcity and an over-regulatory environment helped thus far? More often than not, the permit process takes longer to fulfil than the actual construction.The development community isn’t taking this lightly. There’s evidence in Vancouver that proposed rental projects in particular are being relegated to the “cancelled” category. Even the City’s new Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program (MIRHPP) started with 55 applications for 20 spots, but we understand that only seven have gone forward with rezoning applications.The city’s monetary loss will prove very significant. Will increases in metered parking and marijuana tax revenue make up the fiscal shortfall?It’s widely acknowledged that rental apartment vacancies in Metro Vancouver are extraordinarily low (currently 1.0 per cent) and have been so for many years. Immigration remains strong, with approximately 35,000 to 40,000 new residents yearly. On the flip side, home prices remain beyond the reach of many. This has long created the perfect storm for unaffordability in our region.The solution? Dramatically increase rental supply. It seems that most suburban municipalities have figured it out and are on the right track.We’ve recently completed our update of new rental projects under construction, approved and proposed for 2019 in Metro Vancouver. Reviewing these figures and looking back at our historical summary, we unearthed something quite telling.In the last two years, the City of Vancouver has gone from being the new rental supply sweetheart, sending out self-congratulatory missives outlining the success of its programs, to being absolutely outpaced by the suburban market. As of 2016, the suburbs were so far behind that the Urban Development Institute asked us to serve on a panel in a seminar called “Building Rental in the Suburbs” to demonstrate how rental was possible outside of Vancouver.Yet fast-forward two and a half years to today, and you’ll see the crushing rate at which developers are applying to build rental in other municipalities.We hope that one day, when Vancouver’s council members retire, their families will ask them, “After all these years, why is our city still experiencing such a terrible rentalhousing mess? What did you do to encourage more rental supply when you had the opportunity?”David Goodman, Mark Goodman and Cynthia Jagger are principals at Goodman Commercial and publishers of The Goodman ReportLetters to the editor should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at email@example.com.CLICK HERE to report a typo.Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.