With HEAT, GCAT & STIR Vision Vancouver add to the world's acronyms rather than develop good policy
CityCaucus.com welcomes its first guest editorial from Vancouver City Councillor Suzanne Anton...
Councillors Meggs and Louie have rushed through a new program, STIR (short term incentives for rental housing) which represents a major hand-out to developers and makes no guarantees of affordability.
The report came in, as so many reports do in this administration, as a late report. It was given to councillors late on a Friday afternoon (12 June) for debate the following Tues morning (16 June). No public consultation was attempted and, unsurprisingly, very few members of the public were present. Those present were almost universal in their condemnation. My efforts to defer the report for a consultation were shouted down. (Impartiality of meeting chairs has been lost in this council.)
STIR will forgive development fees in return for the building of rental housing. Nothing in STIR references affordable housing as a requisite for the waived fees. Neither does the report offer any argument or justification for the hand-out.
In the last council, staff were requested to study the issue of rental housing. Are Vancouver rents too high? Is there a shortage of rental housing? (Vancouver has 27% of the regional population and 48% of the regional rental housing.) What is the impact of rented condos?
Rents are high, and housing is expensive in Vancouver – but it is expensive around the lower mainland and if Vancouver rents are in fact lower than other major centres or than in some surrounding areas, is there a problem which Vancouver taxpayers need to address?
Surely it would be good to know some of these answers before Vancouver taxpayers are asked to shell out to subsidize high end rental housing for others.
There is an additional problem created by STIR: Development cost levies pay for growth – new playing fields, parks, daycares etc. If we add more people and at the same time take no charges for growth, taxpayers face a double whammy.
As many will know, I have been a big proponent of EcoDensity and led the initiative in the last council. EcoDensity action items (high density around transit, laneway housing and suites within suites) will make a genuine impact on housing supply and affordability. Handouts to developers for high end rental housing will not.