Report calls for fast-tracking medium density housing in Metro Vancouver

Source: Report calls for fast-tracking medium density housing in Metro Vancouver

Vancouver Sun today:

More housing is needed that’s not single-family detached homes or high-rise condominiums if the region’s affordability crisis is to be brought under control, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade says.

And politicians need to make it easier for developers to build in-between types of housing or local businesses could be suffocated by the region’s inability to attract young talent to live and work here, the board’s latest housing report says. 

The report was to be released at a board housing forum on Tuesday after nearly a year of research, said the board president, Iain Black.

He said his group’s last economic scorecard, in May, rated Vancouver’s affordability at 15th out of 17 cities surveyed — with only Shanghai and Hong Kong rated more unaffordable.

“Out of that report came a number of priorities, including our inability to attract and retain 25 to 35 year-olds, and that is directly tied to affordable housing and public transit,” Black said. “These middle-income earners either have young families or want young families, and they want to choose communities that are desirable to live in, but also physically located close to where they work. We have a great disadvantage in attracting that demographic right now.”

The housing report makes seven recommendations. The main one is giving higher priority to medium-density projects such as duplexes, courtyard apartments, townhouses, laneway houses and secondary suites. The aim of these is to attract young families that can’t fit comfortably in a small highrise condo unit but cannot afford a single-detached home.

The recommendations calls for a more developer-friendly environment to promote these options, dubbed “missing middle” housing, by creating clear deadlines for project approval, allowing a list of previously accredited developers to get fast-track approvals, and changing the community amenity contribution rules away from time-consuming case-by-case negotiations to a set price per unit or per square foot.

Black said some projects in Metro Vancouver are taking five to seven years to get from conception to construction.

“You cannot legislate or bylaw your way out of this problem. You need to do it with partnerships with the people who actually build these things, who are actually putting capital and shovels into the ground.”

A number of the report recommendations are already taking shape in some cities. The City of North Vancouver, for example, processes development permit application and building permit applications at the same time, instead of requiring applicants to get one permit approval before seeking the next one. Black said such changes are still the exception rather than the rule, and a “cultural change” is needed at the municipal level.

“This is not an indictment of the status quo,” he said. “It is, however, an honest assessment that things need to change. And they must change immediately … and the municipalities’ responses have been positive.  They all realize that we need to change, and the current response is not working. This is the start of this conversation.”

chchiang@postmedia.com

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