Tag Archives: Renters

What’s that smell?

What’s that smell?

There was a distinctly fishy aroma at Monday’s CNV Council meeting when, at the behest of Mayor Mussatto, Council re-considered Starlight’s proposal to develop 40 units of infill rental housing around the existing high-rise building at 151 East Keith (fronting Victoria Park).

The development had already been discussed at a public hearing on April 23, and Council had turned it down by a 4-3 vote. That should have been the end of it under the rules, which state: “No further information or submissions can be considered by Council once the Public Hearing is closed.”

Then suddenly last week, the mayor directed that an item be added to the May 14 council agenda: to reconsider (and approve for third reading) the zoning bylaw changes that Council had rejected on April 23.

No one seemed to know what the mayor was up to. Had one of the dissenting councillors decided to change his or her vote? Surely he wasn’t bringing up new information received after the public hearing had been closed – that would be against the bylaw.

And we know the mayor was sensitive about upholding the bylaw, because at the start of the May 14 Council meeting, he did not allow two members of the public to speak about 151 East Keith in Public Input Period. “We’re not allowed to receive any new information,” he explained.

Then came the mayor’s big reveal. In their original proposal, Starlight had promised to apply the “10-10-10” affordability formula, meaning 10% (i.e. four) of the new units would be rented for 10% below market rates, for 10 years. Now, the mayor told Council, Starlight was proposing to make 20 per cent (i.e., eight) of the new units available at 10% below market rates, in perpetuity. More affordable housing! Who could be against that?

But didn’t this contravene the rule about “no further information or submissions…once the Public Hearing is closed”? Heavens no, claimed the mayor – Starlight had informed him of this pot-sweetener before the public hearing. Apparently, they just neglected to mention it at the time.

In the subsequent discussion, both the mayor and Councillor Keating revealed they had had discussions with the developer offline about this offer. Keating claimed the rule had not been violated because it’s OK for individual councillors to receive new information, just not Council as a whole. (Hmm.)

Despite the mayor’s urging, and some passionate oratory by Councillors Keating and Buchanan on the crying need for more rental housing and more affordable housing, the dissenting councillors (Clark, Back, Bell and Bookham) stuck to their guns and the mayor’s motion was defeated.

Some closing thoughts:

Either the mayor was less than entirely truthful when he claimed Starlight told him about the deal sweetener before the public hearing, or Starlight’s project team is amazingly incompetent for neglecting to mention such an important detail at the April 23 hearing.

It seems municipal bylaws governing public hearings are merely suggestions, unless you’re just a taxpaying citizen, in which case they are iron-clad.

Could it be that this whole exercise was just to provide a platform for Councillors Keating and Buchanan to kick off their election campaigns with some thundering rhetoric about the need for more rental development? We’ll see.

 

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Victoria Park – Beginning of the End?

Rated as #21 in ‘things to do in North Vancouver’ on Trip Advisor.

Some City of North Van residents may not be aware of the pressure being placed on some loved spaces in the City. Victoria Park is recognized on the register of ‘Canada’s Historic Places’ as ‘an urban park surrounded by a high density residential area’. The area has a park-like feel mostly because of the green space surrounding the apartment buildings. That green space has generally had a 25′ foot setback from neighbouring buildings, but is now being reduced to as little as 5′ to enable more buildings on some lots. 

There is a public hearing on Monday for a proposal at 151 East Keith, a rental building whose land is being paved over by an additional three buildings with no additional parking provided.  PLEASE ATTEND THE PUBLIC HEARING AND SPEAK UP TO SUPPORT YOUR NEIGHBOURS IF YOU ARE NOT IN AGREEMENT WITH THIS PROPOSAL.

We urge you to read this letter to Council and know that surrounding buildings are being approached by the City’s former Director of Planning suggesting that their building could do similar.  ‘I see you have potential for additional development on your property’.  He also seems to be pushing support for two particular members of Council which appears questionable in a local election year.

PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ THIS AND THINK ABOUT THE IMPLICATIONS FOR PRECEDENCE IN THIS AREA.  

To Mayor Mussatto and Counsellors Back, Bell, Bookham, Clark and Keating

I am totally opposed to the proposal for 151 East Keith Road and I hope you will be also.

BUILDING SETBACKS

The proposal is asking to change the building setbacks from 25 feet to as little as 5 feet for much of the property. This is not a minor change to adjust a small piece or corner of a building to position it better – no – this is a proposal to build about 50% of additional structures ON THE 25 FOOT SETBACK.

RESULT – This would be the beginning of the end for Victoria Park.

  • PRECEDENT

This would set a precedent for every building around the park. Already 123 E Keith received an email saying they could consider doing the same. 160 East Keith has just been sold – we have heard it may be to the same company and that it is already being looked over for possible additions.

  • RESULT FOR THE PARK

If buildings are allowed to have only a 5 foot setback, the park will be a walled fortress with a small green space (or probably mud space) in the middle. Already the shadow from 161 E Keith is covering the east end of the park for much of the winter. The park alone is not a wide space. It looks much wider because of the 25 foot setbacks all around and gets a good amount of sunlight – a space much needed by people living in highrise towers and used by people all over the City.

  • RESULT FOR CURRENT RENTAL BUILDINGS AROUND THE PARK

The owners of about a dozen, older, well-kept, rental buildings all around the park will look at their properties and recalculate what could be built if you tear down and rebuild when you only need a 5 foot setback. These are rental buildings in excellent condition that provide high quality living space for hundreds of people. Any new construction will have smaller units at higher prices. This would make our affordable rental problem even worse.

ADVISORY DESIGN PANEL – Feb. 15, 2017

  • SETBACKS AND NEIGHBOURHOOD BUY-INS

There were multiple comments in the minutes from members of the panel:

you should have positive feedback from neighbours to do this’

I think we are allowing this building owner to do something which is not really in the zoning’

The setbacks are aggressive and neighbours to the east and west need to be satisfied.’

NONE OF THESE COMMENTS got carried forward to the summary of the minutes or into the Rezoning Application!!!

There is NO BUY-IN FROM THE NEIGHBOURS!

  • PRECEDENT

There was a question asked by the Advisory Panel:

What is the implication of breaking the setback? Can other buildings along East Keith Road make similar applications? What precedent does it set?’

Answer from staff – ’ There is not much opportunity for neighbouring sites to do the same thing.’

Reality: – We already know that even before this has past there is already activity! And this sets a huge precedent for all buildings around the park!

  • PARKING

There was also a question – ‘no additional parking is being added?’

Answer from staff – ‘The requirement is 0.75. A variance request down to 0.70 is being made.’

Reality: – the building can only provide 0.63 but somehow the zoning bylaw regarding parking requirements was changed to 0.6 last summer.

Obviously the design panel was questioning the 0.75 level – now there are fewer parking spaces than when the project was reviewed! This is totally inadequate for adding 40 units with 7 units being townhouses with 2 and 3 bedrooms and high rents. Very few people paying these rents can walk to work or even work in NV.

HOUSING ACTION PLAN

  • The City’s Housing Action Plan requires 10% of new units be offered at 10% below market rates for 10 years. For the 40 proposed units this means 4 would be required. (The 10% should apply to all the units on the property as the FSR, lot size, and setbacks are for the whole property – 129 units = 13 below market units.) Starlight is working with Hollyburn Family Services and is offering the 4 units at the BC Government SAFER rate of $765 per month.

When this is calculated – what is the value of this contribution by Starlight?

CMHC NV Average Bachelor Rent

$1,018

BC Government SAFER Rent

$765

Difference Starlight Foregoes Each Month

$253

Starlight Total Value of Foregone Rent for 4 units per year

$12,144

Starlight Total Value for 10 Years

$121,440

What does Starlight gain?

CMHC 2017 – NV Average Rents * # of New Units Total per Month Total Per Year
– Bachelor Rent $1,018

33 – 4 = 29

$29,522

 
– 2 Bedroom Rent $1,645

5

$8,225

 
– 3 Bedroom $2,192

2

$,384

 
TOTAL ANNUAL RENT
– FOR NEW UNITS
 

$42,131

$505,572

TOTAL OVER 10 YEARS    

$5,055,720

*These rental rates are averages – probably much lower than a newly constructed building would command.

Starlight stands to gain very significant income from these units. Their building costs would be paid back quickly as there would be no underground parking added and it would be wood frame construction – less costly than concrete. In comparison they would make an extremely small contribution to our community in the way of a Community Amenity. Our community would give up extremely valuable setback zoning – that would set a precedent for the whole park area.

Can anyone explain why this deal would even be considered acceptable by Council? We are being bribed with an inadequate offer of 4 rental units – in return for substantial gains to Starlight!

The community is clearly the loser in this transaction!

THE CURRENT RENTAL SITUATION

According to CMHC 2017 report, the City of NV now has a vacancy rate of 1.3%. Our OCP has a GVRD 10-year Housing Demand target of 200 Market Rental. Since 2011 our City has already approved or built 1,166 units (only counting mid- and high-rise rentals) – with more under construction. Condo buildings have rentals of about 40% so that is another 1,136 units. We do not need another 40 market rental units. We need the BC and federal governments to help provide rents that allow people to live in them.

ACTION NEEDED

The community understands the desperate need for affordable housing. In discussion with Mayor Mussatto, I suggested the City use some of our gain from the $1.8 MILLION sale of the boulevard by 161 East Keith and make arrangements to house at least 4 people as soon as the building is finished. As he pointed out, there are many more units needed so we cannot do this for one group and not others. It is also not the responsibility of the municipal government to provide this housing – it is the responsibility of the provincial and federal governments. With the recent changes in these levels of government there is now increased commitment for support in this area. Our City needs to advocate very strongly to obtain increases especially for the GVRD area so the SAFER program and other similar programs will be funded to meet the actual rent requirements. If the City needs the citizens to get involved there are many of us willing to stand up for these requirements.

SUMMARY

I totally object to this proposal and implore council to reject it. The precedent would have unbelievable consequences for our park and our affordable housing! It has NO BUY-IN from the neighbourhood!

PLEASE REJECT THIS PROPOSAL

Linda Heese

140 Keith Road East

Affordable Housing case study

One of the items on the agenda for Monday’s Council Meeting is a rezoning application for 365 E 2nd.  In the 1050 page agenda package are details of the application, for a new 42 unit rental building (with 4 suites at mid-market rates for 10 years).  This new building will replace an existing rental building with 15 suites.  The new building will be 6 storeys, existing is 3 storeys.

A report from Colliers (undated) details the sale of this building:

Westbrooke Apartments, a 15-suite wood frame apartment building located at 365 East 2nd Avenue sold in June 2015 for $3,750,000, or $250,000 per unit. In January 2016, the property sold again for $4,475,000, or $298,333 per unit, representing an appreciation in value of 20% in under seven months. Lack of product, influx of foreign capital and the introduction of the North Vancouver Official Community Plan can all be attributed to this insatiable demand for North Vancouver apartment buildings.

In the report (part of the agenda) are the results of the information meetings, attendees for the most part extolling the virtues of the new building, with particular emphasis to having rentals in the area. But the existing building is a rental building – with rents varying from $824 to $1650 (2 bed).  

Based on the City’s reporting: Generally the Mid-Market rates represent a discount of approximately 35 %- 45% from current market rates. Based on the 2017 average rents in the City, Mid-Market Rental Units are to be rented $1425 for a 2 bed – therefore the current market rent would be about $2000. 

Does it make any sense to continue replacing affordable renting housing with unaffordable new rental housing?  Should there not be proof of the demand?  Should there not be evidence of the neighbours supporting these new proposals? It seems as though 80% of the responses at the info meetings are not from residents in the area. How can a newly built building possibly complete with an existing building value of $300K/unit?

 

What Goes Up …

Comment from Voices:  We heartily agree with this sentence in the following article from The North Shore News today:  “What Goes Up …”,  ‘We also need our municipal governments to keep a closer eye on developers who walk in the front door preaching affordability and walk out the back door hawking luxury living.’  

We have calculated that over 7,000 new units have been added to the City of North Van since 2011 – and if you are searching for a new condo, or a rental – you will likely not find one to purchase under $500,000 and a rental under $1800.  That would be for 500 sq.ft.

From: http://www.nsnews.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-what-goes-up-1.23101123

Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster and the relationship between housing supply and affordability. It’s an unlikely trio that belongs to the realm of the mythical – at least, that’s the contention of a Kwantlen Polytechnic University professor who crunched 15 years of housing numbers and concluded Metro Vancouver has produced more than enough supply to meet demand. For every 100 new households, Metro Vancouver has built 119 new housing units, John Rose contends.

There will doubtless be sufferers of tower fatigue who will use the study as grounds for opposing every construction project. And it’s true supply has utterly failed to exert any gravity on the North Shore’s astronomical housing market. Over the past decade, benchmark home prices in North Vancouver and West Vancouver have risen 98 and 106 per cent.But even if Rose’s conclusions are correct and we do have enough physical houses, that still doesn’t mean we have an adequate housing supply. That’s largely because we’re burdened with a more than adequate supply of Airbnbs, empty homes, and speculators.

While the foreign buyers tax has helped, we still need senior levels of government to make a simple declaration: if you’re not going to live here then your money’s no good here. We also need our municipal governments to keep a closer eye on developers who walk in the front door preaching affordability and walk out the back door hawking luxury living.

Rose is slated to release his report this Friday. We hope all levels of government will examine it closely because for far too many trades workers, nurses, and teachers, the real myth is an affordable place to live on the North Shore.

 

Letter: New condos leave us homeless

Following is a letter published in the Richmond News on July 28th, and speaks of a common concern in the City of North Van:

Dear Editor,

One hundred and forty families in central Richmond will have to move soon as our rental building is being torn down for condos ­— condos that we cannot afford to buy. 

Condos are so hot now that buyers are putting in offers sometimes $50,000 dollars over asking and without subjects. The loans the government is willing to lend first-time buyers only make the housing market more unaffordable. A 20-year-old two-bedroom apartment lists at almost half a million dollars.

I thought as a teacher I had a good job, but I can’t afford a home in Vancouver. The B.C. economy does not allow the average person to legally make enough money to buy an apartment. Notice, I didn’t say house. Those rarities are for investors or the lucky children of people who bought years ago.

There is a problem here. The high-rise condos that will replace my apartment building will not densify the neighbourhood because most of them will sit empty. 

The property speculators who are building these new buildings believe renting devalues them. When our buildings are torn down, there will be 140 families looking for accommodation. The vacancy rate is under one per cent in Richmond! Waiting lists for most co-ops are closed. 

Where are we to go?

Renters who work in the city will have to move farther afield. But now there’s another problem. The Liberals’ 15 per cent tax did not extend to outlying areas. So now homes in Maple Ridge and Chilliwack have gone up by 12 per cent from last year. Are we supposed to move to another province? 

A lot of young people who were raised in B.C. have moved away because of unaffordable housing. If the government cannot do something as simple and necessary as providing affordable housing — we’re not asking them to solve climate change here — then we really need to ask ourselves if they’re competent enough to manage the province.

Some people may think that since they own their house, none of this applies to them. 

Well, sorry, it does. 

I have friends who own houses and say they can’t move because the prices are too expensive to move up the property ladder. Their children have moved and they see their grandkids once or twice a year. No one wins, except for the property speculators who’ve turned what used to be affordable homes into lottery tickets. Our slogan should be Formerly Beautiful BC.

Lexy Clayburn

Richmond

http://www.richmond-news.com/opinion/letters/letter-new-condos-leave-us-homeless-1.21442532

Airbnb and North Shore renters

Airbnb is in the news a lot lately, following is an opinion piece from Elizabeth James (former contributing writer for the North Shore News):  

At the time this is written, delegates to the 2016 convention of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) are about to discuss issues raised by the proliferation of Airbnb short-term rentals throughout British Columbia. Details of those discussions are not yet available, so the following is just one person’s view of the current situation.

Note: This article is presented ‘in general’. Each of our North Shore municipalities has its own set of bylaws and regulations so you may need to modify my comments to fit your own neighbourhood.

The most obvious issue so far concerns the effect Airbnb rentals may be having on the availability of affordable housing in the wider Metro Vancouver region.

Should we sympathize with a homeowner who welcomes the Airbnb short-term rental income to help them stay afloat in today’s economy? Or should we save our concern for our seniors and young people who are left without a place to call home when, legally or otherwise, those units are taken out of the year-round pool of rental accommodations?

A review of the Airbnb site shows that some hosts own multiple properties that operate as a full-fledged ‘chain’ of short-term rentals. Is that what we want to see in our so-called single family neighbourhoods? In other words, wherever the accommodation is located, Airbnb hosts are operating businesses.

Although Airbnb claims their accommodations have a positive effect https://www.airbnb.ca/press/news/study-finds-that-airbnb-hosts-and-guests-have-major-positive-effect-on-city-economies, as some Lynn Valley residents can attest, the constant coming and going and parking problems caused by the ever-changing faces of the ‘people next door’ doesn’t foster a stable, secure and friendly feeling of community.

Which leads us to other issues that are overdue for closer examination – issues that relate to whether or not municipalities have any say over where and how many Airbnb rentals are located. If not, your municipality may have lost control over some of its zoning and land-use by-laws, permit fees and tax revenues.

Just as concerning is that, for good or ill and absent due process, the character of some North Shore neighbourhoods is being altered, perhaps irretrievably. If that’s the case for you and you don’t like what you see, why not check with your other neighbours and/or plead your case to Staff and Council before it’s too late for them to take action.

Some questions in need of answers:

Did the Airbnb host(s) on your street apply for a municipal business permit?

Have they been inspected and approved as an when as necessary?

Are they paying the fees as required for their annual business licence?

Those questions are relevant because, under the authority of the Community Charter of British Columbia, all three municipalities have enacted strict regulations covering secondary suites, duplexes and Bed and Breakfast operations.

As one example: The District of North Vancouver allows a straightforward B&B in single family residential zones but Divides them into Class 1(up to 3 bedrooms and 6 patrons) and Class 2 (4-6 bedrooms). Both classes are required to provide a specified number of off-street parking spaces.

Most importantly, Class 2 units require Council approval and a public meeting at which neighbours may voice their support or opposition to the application. Class 2 also requires a wide array of working, Code-specified safety features before a permit will be issued.

Again in the District, an annual B&B licence fee is required – $63 per B&B room.

According to an advertisement currently running on local television, 60 per cent of Airbnb hosts use the income they earn to help pay their mortgages or rents. So the closing questions for now are: Is Airbnb licensed to do business in the jurisdictions in which it operates? Are all of its hosts licensed to do business in their municipalities and, last but not least, are they declaring their revenues for income tax purposes?

Stay tuned for UBCM announcements. Your comments would be welcome.

Elizabeth James

rimco@shaw.ca

Airbnb blamed for increasing pressures on rental markets

Comment from Voices:  The City of North Van has one of the highest percentages of renters in Metro Vancouver (45.7% from the 2011 census).  The drive for development has displaced many and many more will come.   Do you think Council should be focusing on housing for existing residents instead of pet projects which are the current focus?  

Should new development have a higher percentage of family accommodation (2 or 3 bedroom units)?  Is Airbnb impacting the long term rental market?  There are more than 300 North Vancouver units listed on their website (https://www.airbnb.ca/).  Should the City be regulating short term rentals and working with Airbnb on collecting taxes?  Other cities are.

Article in the Globe and Mail:

Cities take aim at Airbnb

Airbnb and other short-term operators are being blamed for reducing housing for renters, reports Sunny Dhillon

Concerns about Airbnb’s impact have spread beyond major cities

Source: Airbnb blamed for increasing pressures on rental markets