Vancouver Election 2022: Key housing commitments from all 11 parties

October 11, 2022

In advance of Vancouver’s municipal elections on October 15th, every political party has released a platform on how they intend to address the housing affordability and homelessness crisis.

The 2021 Census data released in September indicates that British Columbia has the highest rate of housing unaffordability in Canada, with more than 1 out of 4 residents living in housing that is unaffordable. These households are spending more than 30% of their before-tax income on housing. Notably, 44.8% of renters in Vancouver’s primary downtown are living in unaffordable homes.  

The municipal election comes at a critical moment, with the cost of rental housing in the city out of reach for almost half of Vancouver’s residents, many of whom continue to deal with the economic instability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the City of Vancouver also adopted a long-term growth plan and land use strategy that aims to address some of the factors contributing to the affordability crisis, with the implementation of the Vancouver Plan policy commitments falling to the incoming City Council.   

Two recent polls, conducted in August and September, indicate that tackling the housing affordability crisis is a top priority of Vancouverites in this election. In this context, parties across the political spectrum have signalled that housing will be a priority for their candidates, if elected.

While some of the commitments made in these housing platforms fall under provincial jurisdiction, parties have set a broad range of housing policy priorities. Below we offer a breakdown of some of the common themes and commitments made by parties across the political spectrum. This is not an exhaustive list of all housing commitments made in their platforms. We hope that this summary of the housing commitments made in each platform will help voters make informed decisions as they head to the polls on October 15th

Ending exclusionary zoning

Currently, multi-family rental units such as multiplexes, townhouses and low-rise apartment buildings are banned in 75% of the Vancouver’s residential land, making these neighbourhoods unaffordable to many residents. Research suggests that exclusionary zoning has historically been used to exclude marginalized groups from affluent neighbourhoods – practices that continue to shape who can access neighbourhoods and services in Vancouver today. Several parties have pledged to undertake zoning reform, with the aim of ending exclusionary zoning and creating more affordable and inclusive neighbourhoods across the city:

  • Affordable Housing Coalition has committed to undertake up-zoning across the city for townhouses and low rises.  
  • Greens have committed to undertake zoning reform to allow mid-rise apartments and missing middle housing, in all neighbourhoods. They have also promised to expand pre-zoning for affordable, non-market housing and rental-only housing in select areas.  
  • One City and Progress Vancouver have committed to ending the apartment ban, allowing 6-storey rental buildings and 4-storey strata buildings to be built throughout the city.  
  • Vision Vancouver has committed to introduce a motion on city-wide zoning reform that will allow low- and mid-rise housing options across neighbourhoods within 90 days of taking office.

Additionally, the Green Party has committed to strengthen access to affordable rental housing by tying the definition of affordability to household income, rather than markets, and changing the definition of social housing used by the City.

Indigenous housing and advancing reconciliation

The Government of Canada has acknowledged that increasing access to safe and adequate housing for Indigenous people is essential to advancing self-determination and reconciliation. However, 2021 Census data highlights that Indigenous people are almost twice as likely to live in overcrowded housing, compared to non-Indigenous people, and that 16.4% of Indigenous people continue to live in dwellings in need of major repairs. Indigenous people are also overrepresented in the population of those experiencing homelessness in Vancouver. Here are some of the key commitments regarding Indigenous housing:

  • ABC has committed to pilot culturally appropriate, Indigenous-led supportive housing, in partnership with Indigenous people.  
  • Greens have committed to specific targets for building Indigenous housing near public amenities.  
  • Progress Vancouver has committed to support Indigenous-led housing developments, building on the examples of Sen̓áḵw and the Jericho Lands. 
  • VOTE Socialist has committed to end the issuance of construction or demolition permits without the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous nations and to support Indigenous-led efforts to build public housing on City-owned land. 

Increasing the supply of market and non-market rental housing 

Vancouver’s renter households are struggling to find affordable rental homes due to the shortage of rental housing, in particular rental housing that is adequate for larger families and those living on lower incomes. The 2021 Census data shows that Canadians are less likely to own their own homes as compared to 2011, putting additional pressure on the existing rental supply. This is a concerning trend in a city with a 1.2% vacancy rate – well below what is considered to be a “healthy rental market” vacancy rate of 3-5%. Moreover, low-income renters continue to face lengthy waitlists to access affordable non-market housing through social and supportive housing providers. 

Across housing platforms, parties have committed to increase the construction of market and non-market rental housing, prioritizing family-sized units. While some have set specific targets for amount and type of new supply, others have outlined strategies and incentive structures to increase the supply of rental housing. This includes commitments to leverage City-owned land for affordable housing. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the key commitments made across party platforms: 

Targeted commitments for new rental housing:  

  • ABC has committed to double the number of co-operative housing units in four years. 
  • Forward Together has committed to approve and enable the construction of a total of 140,000 housing units that will include private market rentals, rentals with rents below the average market rent, social housing and co-operative housing over the next 10 years. 
  • Greens have broadly committed to increase targets for both rental housing and non-market housing, relative to need.  
  • Progress Vancouver has committed to increase housing targets to 15,000 per year, with 50% rental housing, providing incentives for the construction of purpose-built rentals.  
  • VOTE Socialist has committed to ensure that 50% of new housing units built are affordable. They promise to build at least 2,500 units each year for public rental housing with rents tied to household income to guarantee affordability.  

In addition, NPA has broadly committed to set targets for housing based on immigration numbers, including targets for rental and workforce housing for middle class households.

Incentivizing the construction or acquisition of market and non-market rental housing:

  • ABC has committed to champion the role of non-profits in the delivery of housing. They promise to identify locations to provide density bonusing for non-market housing and refocus development fees to support increased supply of affordable rentals. 
  • AHC has committed to provide funding and incentives to co-operatives to create new rental housing. They also promise to encourage the creation of 3-bedroom units across various housing types.  
  • Greens have committed to increase inclusionary zoning, maximize the use of city-owned lands and buildings to meet affordable housing targets, and work with the province to establish right of first refusal to acquire more housing. They have also pledged to resolve uncertainties around lease renewal for co-operative housing.  
  • NPA has committed to incentivize the private sector to construct more housing. They do not have commitments for the construction of non-market housing or other forms of affordable rental housing.  
  • One City has committed to give social housing an advantage over private market housing developments by allowing them to build higher and faster. They also promise to change the rules to build more 2- and 3- bedroom apartments across different housing types.  
  • Progress Vancouver has committed to renew co-operative housing leases and to work with the insurance industry to facilitate insurance for collective living. They have promised to build more family sized, 2- and 3-bedroom homes.  
  • TEAM has committed to provide a mix of non-market and private market housing for rental and ownership in partnership with local residents at the scale of each neighbourhood. They promise to use City-owned lands to create more affordable housing options.   
  • VOTE Socialist has committed to establish right of first refusal to allow the City of Vancouver to purchase residential buildings to convert them into public housing. 

In addition, AHC, One City, Vision Vancouver, and VOTE Socialist all committed to transform or revitalize the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency and empower the agency to build and maintain affordable rental housing.

Streamlining the planning process and reduce barriers to building new housing 

Studies have shown that overly strenuous regulations and bottlenecks in the planning and approvals processes can slow down the construction of new housing, increasing costs and decreasing affordability. Several parties have included in their housing platforms strategies to streamline and speed up planning and permitting processes, with the stated objective of increasing the supply and affordability of new housing. Here is a non-exhaustive list of key commitments made:

  • ABC has committed to impose strict timelines on the permitting process. They also promise to adopt pre-approved building forms for laneway homes.  
  • AHC has committed to establish pre-approved building templates for missing middle homes and shift the permitting process in areas zoned for construction to City Staff.  
  • Forward Together has committed to modernize public hearings and permitting, including through reform of the Vancouver Charter, to expedite the permitting of rental and social housing. They also promise to create new specialized project teams to expedite approvals for major projects.  
  • Green Party has committed to guarantee permit timelines, streamline the permitting process for affordable and non-profit housing construction, simplify the process for permitting additional dwellings and secondary suites, and establish pre-approved building forms.  
  • NPA has committed to impose guaranteed permitting timelines for home construction and explore digital permitting solutions.   
  • One City has committed to delegate some development approvals to City Staff, streamlining the approvals process and removing requirements for public hearings. 
  • Progress Vancouver has committed to establish standardized missing-middle designs, review the permitting application process and impose tight timelines on permitting. 
  • Vision Vancouver has committed to support the removal of public hearings for all below-market housing and impose guaranteed timelines for missing middle builds and home renovations. 

Additionally, TEAM has outlined its commitments to continue to conduct ongoing consultations with existing communities in the zoning and development process. 

Strengthening renter protections

Vancouver is a city of renters with over half its households living in rental housing. However, renters frequently face housing instability and eviction due to re-development or renovation of rental units. Building on some of the commitments made in Vancouver’s newly adopted Broadway Plan, several parties have pledged to strengthen renter protections and limit displacement resulting from growth and intensification, including commitments to divert new development to lower-density neighbourhoods.

  • COPE has committed to extend renter protections so that those displaced by renovation or demolition are guaranteed a comparable unit at the same rent and are provided a top-up subsidy for rents in an interim unit. They have promised to legalize tenant unions and establish their right to bargain with landlords. They have also committed to a host of other renter protections, including ending the prohibition of pets in rental units and working with the province to strengthen the Residential Tenancies Act to limit evictions.  
  • Forward Together and Progress Vancouver have committed to extend renter protections across the whole city, including paid relocation of renters if their units are being renovated or redeveloped, providing developer-based subsidies to displaced renters for rent increases and ensuring right of first refusal to return for these renters at the same or lower rent.  
  • Greens have committed to strengthen the enforcement of standards of maintenance for rental housing, expand the City’s Tenant Relocation and Protection Guidelines to rental buildings bought by non-profit housing providers and to strengthen the permitting process to monitor and intervene in cases of renovictions.  
  • OneCity has committed to establish a Tenant Advocacy Office to advocate for renters facing evictions without proper cause and hold landlords accountable. They promise to end displacement incentives and create a right of return, and providing rental top-ups to displaced renters to ensure they maintain housing. They also promise to legally recognize tenant unions and regulate their relationships to landlords.  
  • Vision Vancouver has committed to realize the Renter Protection Office to offer protections and advocacy for renters. They promise to appoint a Renters’ Advocate to engage with City Hall and address renovictions and rental housing shortages.  
  • VOTE Socialist has committed to implement renters’ right to return at the same or lower rents, as well as the right of first refusal and vacancy control tied to units. They promise to end evictions for any residents living in units that cost less than 80% of market rate unless immediately provided with comparable alternate housing. They also promise to establish the rights of renters to organize and collectively bargain in apartment buildings or corporate-owned properties.

Stabilizing rents

As mentioned, the recent 2021 Census data shows that almost half of renters in Vancouver are living in unaffordable homes. Currently, rent control in British Columbia is tied to the renter, meaning that landlords can raise rents by any amount between renters. This means that affordability challenges are particularly severe for those trying to find a new rental home. Several parties have pledged to work with other levels of government to stabilize rents.  

  • AHC has committed to impose vacancy control.  
  • COPE has committed to regulate rent increases between tenants (impose vacancy control) through a Landowner and Landlord Registry program. They also promise to establish a Rent Control Board that will work toward a “roll-back” of rents to 2017 prices. 
  • Forward Together has committed to add permanent vacancy control to some new rental units to ensure they remain 20% below CMHC’s average city-wide rent for the building life.   
  • Greens have also committed to impose vacancy control.  
  • OneCity has committed to advocate for rent control and ensure future public assistance goes directly to renters. They also promise to maintain a registry of historic rent prices to increase transparency on rent hikes.   
  • VOTE Socialist has committed to require landlords to disclose the previous tenant’s rent to the new tenant. They also promise to implement a four-year rent freeze on City-owned rental properties.

Countering housing speculation and stabilizing land prices

With some of the most expensive housing prices in Canada, Vancouver’s housing and the land it sits on is often treated as an investment opportunity. This has led to rampant housing speculation, inflating the cost of land and housing. Several parties have committed to leverage policy and taxation tools to curb housing speculation and stabilize land prices.  

  • ABC has committed to support the Empty Homes Tax and initiate a review to better identify residents unintentionally captured by this policy.  
  • AHC has committed to implement an appreciation tax on land sales and impose a progressive property tax on the most valuable lots.  
  • Forward Together has committed to maintain the Empty Homes Tax at a minimum of 5%. 
  • Greens have committed to strengthen enforcement of the Empty Homes Tax and short-term rental bylaws.  
  • One City has committed to leverage available revenue tools to capture increased land value to reinvest in affordable housing and neighbourhood amenities. They also promise to work with the province to implement a Land Value Tax.  
  • Progress Vancouver has committed to enact a progressive Luxury Homes Surtax and to maintain the Empty Homes Tax.  
  • TEAM has committed to stabilize land values by ending inflationary and disruptive spot zonings that ignore neighbourhood plans without contributing to community amenities.  
  • VOTE Socialist has committed to increase residential and commercial property tax to achieve parity with other Canadian cities. They also promise to support higher property taxes on ownership of more than two properties and strengthen enforcement of short-term rental bylaws. 

Progress, NPA, ABC and Greens have committed to reform current Community Amenity Contributions (CAC) to increase transparency and predictability. 

Supporting unhoused residents

The City of Vancouver has reported that on a given night, there are 2,000 people in the city experiencing homelessness, while around 7,000 more are at risk of homelessness, meaning they are living in housing that is precarious or insecure. Notably, these numbers are from 2020 and do not reflect the destabilizing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, or the effects of ongoing upward pressure on rents and the closure of several Single Room Occupancy (SRO) buildings in 2022, one of the key sources of housing for people living on low-incomes. While longer term strategies to increase affordable and supportive housing are essential to respond to the crises of housing affordability and homelessness, several parties have also committed to provide immediate support to those experiencing homelessness across the city. Here are some of the key commitments:  

  • COPE has committed to provide water and sanitation facilities and allocated space for renters on Hastings Street, and fund peer organizations to maintain safe spaces – in the immediate term. They have pledged to coordinate across levels of government to start acquiring hotels, empty apartment buildings or tiny homes in the medium-term, to provide dignified housing to unhoused people. In the long-term, they promise to plan for thousands of new units of dignified housing by leveraging City-owned land.  
  • Greens have committed to fast-track tiny home communities in empty lots for people experiencing homelessness, improve existing shelter options, strengthen the provision of wrap-around services and staffing in Supportive Housing Units, and provide 24-hour access to water and sanitation facilities for people experiencing homelessness. They have promised to work with the province to expedite the replacement of SROs.  
  • One City has committed to build temporary modular housing on public lands to immediately house those at risk of or experiencing homelessness while permanent housing is found.  
  • Progress Vancouver has committed to work with other levels of government to buy private SROs and renovate them into public social housing over the longer term and to advocate for an increased shelter assistance rate. They have promised to use vacant land to operate temporary emergency outdoor shelters, increase resources and accessibility of women’s shelters, increase access to public washrooms and build Supportive Social Housing outside of Downtown.  
  • VOTE Socialist has committed to stop the eviction of encampment residents, establish short-term emergency shelters in government-owned buildings and parking areas, and to stop the enforcement of parking bylaws that criminalize residents living in vehicles. They have also promised to purchase all privately owned SROs and renovate them to better provide short-term emergency and affordable housing.

Disclaimer: This list represents a summary of many of the key commitments on housing made by parties running in Vancouver’s 2022 Municipal Elections. This should not be considered an exhaustive list of all commitments made. Please refer to the housing platforms shared at the top of this article for a comprehensive overview of each platform.  

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