Wake up: It’s Councilgate!

Goodman Report

City instructs staff to report back on strategies to depress land values and more

It’s not the first time this year we’ve raised the alarm, and we were hoping to head toward the holidays with a little more of a relaxed vibe, but we need your attention and help. Property rights are at stake.

Here’s the background:

Back in June, we urgently emailed our readers to get involved in speaking out on a motion under discussion at the City of Vancouver: Speak up against City of Vancouver motion targeting C-2 zones. This motion contemplated extending the City’s Rental Housing Stock Official Development Plan (ODP) – including the requirement of 1-to-1 replacement of rental housing – beyond the RM zones and onto commercially zoned property. While this seemed like a nominal change, the results of the ODP on existing rental stock have proven ineffective over the past 10 years. Nothing happens under the ODP; not even a 5-to-1 rental replacement generates support! It’s the equivalent of a freeze, effectively downzoning a number of properties, arbitrarily decreasing their value without consultation with affected landowners.

The Urban Development Institute also wrote a letter at that time: Re: Motion on Notice B.2 – Protecting Rental Housing Stock along Arterial Streets.

On June 12th, 2019, following many submissions and after hearing from speakers, City Council voted not to move forward with the bylaw at that time, especially since their staff were in the midst of a full review of rental programs, both historical and future.

Since then, City staff have undertaken their full review on existing rental policies (backward-looking), which resulted in an interim report in July: Review of Vancouver’s Rental Incentive Programs. We sent a newsletter at that time which can be accessed here.

In this interim report, the City didn’t recommend the spirit of the motion in extending the ODP to C zones, which would have been a downzoning. (Cue sigh of relief.)

Following many meetings with stakeholder groups, tenants and the public, along with more economic testing and consulting reports, the latest review and policy report (236 pages here) was made public on November 20, 2019. Again, it contained no recommendation to extend the ODP to C zones.

But here’s the important part now:

On November 29, 2019, Council heard from 24 speakers on the new proposed policies. Council also heard from staff (planners, the city manager, legal, etc.) about the report and their recommendations. Council grilled staff and the consultant, Coriolis Consulting Corp., for 2 hours in the evening. Not until around 7 pm – 9.5 hours into this marathon session! – did the main debate start. At that point, a flurry of amendments from multiple councillors hit the floor.

Somewhere in that 12-hour day, an amendment to an amendment was made that seemed so innocuous at the time that it apparently passed without opposition.

To be fair, Council had no fewer than 17 separate sections to vote on. Watching the voting live as it streamed, we at Goodman Commercial, as well as the public, were unable to see the text of what was being voted on. There was a total lack of clarity and transparency.

Here’s an excerpt from the minutes on final voting, posted on the City’s website for that day:

“Following the votes on the amendments, and the amendments to the amendments, Council agreed to separate the vote on the components of the amended motion. The motion was put and CARRIED as follows:

K. THAT Council instruct staff to prepare a report for consideration for referral to public hearing to amend the Rental Housing Stock Official Development Plan to extend rental replacement requirements to C-2, C-2C, C-2B and C-2B-1 zoning districts city-wide” 

Doesn’t seem too bad, right?  Well, the crux is that if you own a C-2 zoned site in Vancouver, your property is on its way to devaluation.

Should this happen, it effectively means that older commercial properties with three or more rental apartments will be bound by rate-of-change regulations and will have to replace those rental apartments upon redevelopment, including redevelopment to four-storey condos. Reducing the residual land value of these commercial properties, this amounts to a downzoning. It’s very discouraging that Council made this amendment, against staff recommendations, to an otherwise positive report.

This change happened without notice and within “an amendment to an amendment” on a day when it wasn’t even supposed to be on the table. No one had an opportunity to provide context or to offer a defense. For that matter, if you own any property in Vancouver, this type of move demonstrates that the current Council stands ready to take away your rights without consultation. On a whim, on the floor, without a heads-up.

If you’re a member of the public or a prospective tenant, know that these moves put rental development at risk. Policies were put forward to try to increase the number of available rentals, but this type of change does quite the opposite, especially as many of the condos in these zones have traditionally formed part of the rental stock.

Think we’re being dramatic?

See final motion Q. from the Council meeting minutes from the same day. The 5th bullet says to direct staff to report back on:

“The possibility of using zoning similar to the DEOD zoning (60% social housing and 40% rental for anything above 1 FSR) to depress land prices so it will be cheaper to buy for non-market housing.”

The trend is clear.

So what can you do?

We urge you to email and call City Council and the Mayor. Please tell them that extending the ODP to C zones is unacceptable, especially how it’s been brought forward.

Click below to email the Mayor and Councillors all at once:
Mayor Kennedy Stewart, Councillor Rebecca Bligh, Councillor Christine Boyle, Councillor Adriane Carr, Councillor Melissa De Genova, Councillor Lisa Dominato, Councillor Pete Fry, Councillor Colleen Hardwick, Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung, Councillor Jean Swanson and Councillor Michael Wiebe

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