Vancouver has released its annual rental guidelines for what it calls "for profit affordable housing," and the numbers for studio and one-bedroom units have jumped considerably on both sides of the city.

For 2019 on the West Side, that means $1,768 per month for a studio and $2,056 for a one-bedroom is considered affordable rent. In East Vancouver, those numbers are $1,607 for a studio and $1,869 for a one-bedroom.

“I call them luxury rents,” said Sarah Sagaii with the Vancouver Tenants Union, a renters’ advocacy organization.

“They call these affordable, because the cost to buy a condo in the same area is a little higher than that,” Sagaii said.

The rents, which have gone up 7.4 per cent for studios, and 8 per cent for one-bedrooms, are used as guidelines for a program called Rental 100 that was created in 2012 to address rental shortages.

Developers who build new, 100 per cent rental unit buildings and set their initial rents at or below the caps, as well as meet other criteria, are eligible for incentives that include a waiver on what’s called a development cost levy.

It’s a program that’s come under considerable criticism and scrutiny, including from Sagaii, who called it a “fake affordability” measure.

“The incentive program for building rentals is broken,” Sagaii added. “I don’t think it’s been helping renters who need most help.”

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart called the rental numbers attached to the program “upsetting,” and says he understands why they’re causing confusion and raising eyebrows.

Stewart says council is working to change how the city labels different type of housing, to reflect the current reality of the market, and to be less confusing.

“Let’s call an apple, an apple, and know exactly what we’re looking at,” the mayor said.

Stewart also explained that housing programs such as Rental 100, which was established when the industry was not building rental housing, are currently under review.

“We’re looking at rejigging the program in a way that incentivizes, but in a way that maximizes our affordability impacts.”

While what the program calls “affordable rents” increased for studios and one bedrooms from 2018 to 2019, maximum rents for two- and three-bedrooms decreased.

The cap for two-bedrooms dropped nearly 2 per cent to $2,703 per month on the West Side and $2,457 in East Vancouver. Three-bedrooms saw a drop of almost four percent.

The rates are based on the average rents for all residential units built since 2005 in Vancouver, with those on the West Side getting an additional 10-per-cent bump over the east.