New rental incentive program builds housing affordability on STIR gains

The Secured Market Rental Policy program going before the city’s Finance and Budget Committee Tuesday opens the door to long-term expansion of the city’s rental housing stock by building on the success of last term’s Short Term Incentives for Rental program (STIR).

The STIR program generated 1,648 new units or about 550 units a year, up from the 150 units a year the city had seen until then. Although the rents are not subsidized, the new rental units are much cheaper than home ownership — owning a similar bachelor unit would be between 23 percent and 118 percent more expensive.

Action to encourage rental housing construction was a key element of Mayor Gregor Robertson’s campaigns in 2008 and 2011.

Despite the good news, councillors’ mailboxes have received a flurry of e-mails claiming the new program is being launched without consultation. Here’s Raymond Louie’s reply:

The staff report comes as a result of a council directive that requested them to report back on the experience of the STIR program and with recommendations on any adjustments that are necessary.

In developing these recommendations, a number of public engagement activities were undertaken and these are listed below.

On April 27th 2011, as part of a public and stakeholder engagement program, Talk Housing With Us, the City of Vancouver hosted a Stakeholder Workshop. The purpose of Talk Housing With Us was to gather input from the public and key stakeholders on the City’s future Housing and Homeless Strategy and to consider approaches to take over the next ten years. Around 80 individuals participated, who came from a wide range of organizations including those that have experience and expertise in housing the homeless.

On May 26, 2011,  the City hosted the Renters Roundtable. The objective of this event was to gain a clearer understanding and build awareness of the challenges and benefits renters face related to rental housing in Vancouver. The format of the event was an informal, café‐style discussion with a focus on listening to participants’ comments and sharing ideas. Approximately 75 people participated in this event.

On June 4, 2011, nearly 80 citizens gathered at the Talk Housing with Us Unconference to share ideas on the actions required to ensure everyone in Vancouver has a home. The Unconference provided an opportunity for housing stakeholders, experts and interested community members to present ideas, seek advice, and engage one another to find solutions to the challenges of housing affordability and homelessness.

The results of the evaluation were reported to council in March 2012. Much more on the city’s work can be found here.