Vancouver's housing revolution

Profile picture for Kennedy Stewart
Kennedy Stewart
May 04, 2022

Vancouver is at the dawn of a housing revolution. Over the past four years I have worked hard to dramatically increase the right type of housing supply with a key focus on renters and first-time buyers. Our latest housing report shows this effort has borne fruit of which I am proud. I know I can do even more to help make Vancouver a city that works for everyone, but I am worried my opponents will do all they can to reverse our progress.

Everyone remembers the 2010 Olympics when we welcomed the world to our wonderful city. However, Vancouver was well down the wrong housing path by the time the Canadian men’s hockey team hoisted their gold medals. Council was approving lots of housing—4,400 units per year—but almost 75 percent of these homes were condos, most luxurious, and too many were purchased by speculators. Only 25 percent of approved housing was for renters.

Fast forward to 2021, where we have used every tool in the municipal toolbox to radically alter housing construction in our city. Here are seven proof points.

First, our latest housing report shows we approved a record 8,834 homes last year—double what the city was permitting just a decade ago. This acceleration is even more amazing considering we have been in a pandemic for the last two years. Prime Minister Trudeau has challenged Canada’s big city mayors to double our housing production and I believe this goal is possible with the federal and provincial governments’ continued help.

Second, in terms of housing type, we have flipped from approving mostly luxury condos to approving rental homes for everyday working people and those below or near the poverty line. A full 52 percent of all housing approved is now for renters. This proportion leads the province, if not the county in terms of rental housing provision and it is my goal to increase it even further.

Third, a large portion of these new rental homes are for seniors, those living with mental health and addiction issues, Indigenous community members, and women and children fleeing domestic violence. This has been made possible by my efforts to secure over $1 billion in social housing investments from the private sector, City of Vancouver revenues, and the provincial and federal governments. I continue to work to secure more funds to build new housing and to move all single room occupancy hotels in the downtown from private owners to nonprofit operators.

Fourth, Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation data show the Empty Homes tax has helped shift over 5,000 vacant homes held by speculators back onto the market. This is great news for renters and first-time home buyers who have rushed to fill these previously empty units. My proposal to increase the EHT to five percent and double the number of audits should permanently shut speculators out of our local market.

Fifth, earlier this year council approved “Making Home”, my plan to allow 2,000 single-family homeowners to replace their existing home with up to six smaller stratified units. This program also builds in a land value capture mechanism so that the city captures some of the profits from these new homes to invest in infrastructure or for homes for purchase by first-time buyers at prices permanently protected from the speculative market. The first units should come up for sale in 2023.

Sixth, the City of Vancouver leases land to 57 cooperative housing buildings. Many of which are in need of repair and with room to grow. We passed a landmark lease-renewal framework agreement which will accomplish this goal, with the city investing over $1 billion into this economical form of housing with a goal of doubling the number of co-op units on city land. 

Finally, Vancouver has dramatically increased protections for renters and tied compensation in the event of redevelopment to how long renters have been in place. The longer your tenure, the bigger the compensation. These changes have dramatically reduced demovictions and renovictions in our city, but I believe we can and must go further. No renter should fear being pushed out of their neighbourhood or see their rents spike because of redevelopment. At the same time, we need to make sure we are renewing aging rental stock and making room for more renters across our city.

From day one, I have been clear with residents my top priority is to tackle the housing crisis and build a Vancouver that works for all of us—not just the few. To build more housing for locals, crack down on speculators, and win Vancouver’s fair share of funding from senior levels of government. Yet today, mere months before our next municipal elections, my opponents continue to believe speculators deserve a break and that we live in some bizarro world where the solution to high prices is less housing.

Try telling that to the thousands of people waiting in line for rentals or getting outbid at every open house. They need a serious plan for housing. They need us to accelerate the path we are on, not take a u-turn. And they need someone who will put people first, not speculators. That is my promise. To keep moving Vancouver forward, together.

Sign up for updates