Photo: Kyle Pearce/Flickr

The City of Vancouver is suggesting a new approach to address the lack of affordable rental homes in the market — units that are reserved for people within a certain income bracket.

Instead of building more social housing, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson announced on Sunday a proposal to collaborate with developers to create rental units reserved for households making between $30,000 and $80,000.

“The City is doubling down on affordable housing backed by the principle that no one should spend more than 30 per cent of their income on their home,” says Robertson, in a statement.

As part of the City’s Housing Vancouver Strategy, the proposed idea would be included in the Cambie Corridor Phase 3 Plan and require new rental buildings to include a minimum of 20 per cent long-term affordable units.

Developers who agree to this proposal could receive the incentive of extra density, parking relaxations or Development Cost Levies waivers.

Vancouver advocacy group, Housing Action for Local Taxpayers (HALT), says the plan is a step in the right direction to address the city’s housing affordability crisis but based on the minimal details released, the approach only caters to a tiny proportion of the issue.

“From what we’ve been hearing is it only applies to rental buildings, so developers can still choose to just create condos and they can sell at market rate. So, it only applies to a very small fraction of the overall density,” HALT spokesperson Raza Mirza tells BuzzBuzzNews.

If this proposal is approved it could create 1,000 new affordable homes in the Oakridge Municipal Town Centre, as part of the 4,000 affordable homes and 11,500 overall residences slated to be built in the Cambie area by 2041.

However, this approach raises some concerns for UBC Sauder School of Business professor Tsur Somerville who says administering this type of housing may be challenging to enforce.

“I think one of the issues is how do they run this without creating a large bureaucracy to essentially manage private housing that’s under a particular set of development regulations,” Somerville tells BuzzBuzzNews.

According to the City, prices for the new rental homes could range from $850 to $1,000 for a studio, $1,250 to $1,500 for a one-bedroom and $1,700 to $2,100 for a two-bedroom unit.

With this plan, Somerville says the City is putting forth a good effort to increase supply in the market but tackling other housing issues first may be a faster solution.

“If the city actions on the Airbnb rules and on the vacancy tax, those are more immediate steps to try to get more units into the rental mix,” says Somerville.

On Tuesday, city staff is expected to present its Housing Vancouver Strategy and outline this proposal in more detail.

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