Metro report warns of grim future for North Shore renters
Nearly one in four apartments in the City of North Vancouver and seven in 10 apartments in the District of North Vancouver are at risk of being lost to disrepair and development. And those numbers are expected to climb.
That’s according to a Metro Vancouver report released last month studying how many of the region’s purpose-built rental units are currently at risk of loss and what municipalities can do to prevent it.
The study looked only at market-priced, non-strata buildings with four or more rental units.
It found that 23 per cent of North Van city’s 6,830 apartments in 230 buildings are at risk of loss. Broken down, that’s 1,553 city apartments and 85 buildings that Metro warns could be lost if something is not done to eliminate the factors that make redeveloping rental properties so lucrative for owners.
Receiving the report at the July 16 city council meeting, Mayor Darrell Mussatto called the findings “quite frightening, especially here in the City of North Vancouver [where] almost 50 per cent of our residents rent.”
If nothing is done to stem the tide of rental redevelopment, the Metro report warns, the 23 per cent at risk of loss today will jump to 40 per cent at risk by 2022. That’s 2,754 units in 137 properties that Metro says could be erased from North Van city’s rental stock over the next decade.
In the district, the renter’s future is far grimmer. While North Van district has a stock of dedicated rental housing roughly one-sixth that of the city with just 1,206 units in 41 buildings, that number is set to shrink further.
Metro says exactly 70 per cent of those district units — 840 suites on 28 properties — are now at risk of loss to redevelopment, a number that will hit 93 per cent or 1,128 units at risk in ten years’ time without some kind of intervention.
All North Shore municipalities placed high in the risk-to-redevelop category, with 22 per cent of West Vancouver’s 1,864 units — or seven of 26 buildings — labelled likely-to-be-developed by the Metro study.
The study’s authors, Coriolis Consulting Corp., lay out recommendations for the six participating Metro municipalities to quell the redevelopment of rental properties, including offering tax incentives to rental developers to build units and to retain what’s already there, lower property taxes, require the one-to-one replacement of disused rental units with new rental units and limit the number of rental demolitions allowed per year.
The study also recommends municipalities zone certain properties as rental-only instead of the usual residential zoning, but North Van city community development director Gary Penway said such measures are illegal under B.C.’s Local Government Act.
“It allows you to bonus and incentivize rental housing, but there has to be a base use [as a residential zone],” Penway told council.
Of the other three non-North Shore municipalities in the study, Richmond has the highest number of at-risk rentals with 48 per cent of its 2,259 units at risk, comprising 13 of its 27 apartment buildings. Eight per cent of Surrey’s 5,347 apartments are considered at risk — 25 of 89 buildings — and New Westminster comes in at just two per cent of 9,235 suites comprising 28 of 348 buildings at risk for redevelopment.
In 2009 — the latest study available — Vancouver’s rental at-risk rate was 12 per cent.
Redevelopment risk is measured as a financial ‘tipping point’ at which the value of a rental property is greater as a development site than as a rental property. The age, materials, location and density of a property all factor into this equation, as do a municipality’s polices on development.