Vancouver Tenants Union opposes controversial Broadway Plan
Vancouver Tenants Union opposes controversial Broadway Plan
A so-called “resistance movement” was launched at Vancouver City Hall Monday by those opposed to a controversial plan to dramatically densify the Broadway corridor.
Called the Broadway Plan, the 30-year proposal aims to create much-needed housing, but those who already live in the area are concerned they’ll be displaced.
Monday's event was hosted by the Vancouver Tenants Union, which released the results of a survey it conducted with those living along the corridor back in fall 2021.
The group surveyed 293 households across 41 purpose-built rental buildings.
“While the median market rental price is known, there is currently no data collected on tenured rental rates in B.C.,” a report from the group said.
The VTU said the data it collected points to a large rent gap between the median current rent tenants surveyed are paying, compared to the median market rental price.
As part of the survey, the VTU calculated the difference between the maximum current rent in a building versus the minimum current rent, calling it the “Delta Rent.”
When averaged across all buildings survey it, found a rent increase of:
- $243/month for studios
- $431/month for one bedrooms
- $421/month for two bedrooms
“In other words, today, the average landlord of a building in our survey area could expect an 18-20 per cent increase in income on their lowest paid units if they’re able to find some pretense to evict that tenant,” the VTU's statement said.
According to the survey, the difference between the median market rent and the median surveyed rent is:
- Studio - the median market rate is $1,925 and the median surveyed rent is $1,167
- One bedroom - the median market rate is $2,200 and the median surveyed rent is $1,379
- Two bedroom- the median market rate is $3,200 and the median surveyed rent is $1,885
“A landlord can expect a 60 to 70 per cent general increase in rental income across all units if they redevelop their building and replace all of their tenants. Think of it as the financial incentive to demoevict," said Mark Gharibnavaz, organizer with the VTU.
One-in-five survey respondents said that their current rent is unaffordable to them, and more than half said they would not be able to remain in their neighbourhood if they were evicted.
“There are some exciting possibilities when it comes to building housing and communities along public transit, but in the hands of real estate interests it is a weapon against poor and working-class communities across the city,” said Gharibnavaz.
However, Mayor Kennedy Stewart is promising the strongest renter protections in Canada.
If approved, the plan would redevelop the Broadway corridor, which is slated to be home to the new Broadway Subway by 2025, into a second downtown over the coming decades.
The proposal would allow for residential towers up to 40 storeys tall, adding housing for an additional 50,000 people.
Stewart has promised any displacement would be temporary, and residents would be compensated or given the right to move into the new units at or below current rents.
The mayor would not guarantee they would be the same size units.
However, Stewart said the city would "see" about getting people who are living in over-crowded spaces into larger units.
The mayor said the builders will also have to pay for the renter's moving costs and any difference in rent at their temporary accommodations.
The lower rental rates are tied to the units themselves.
The CEO of LandlordBC said the plan to have developers off-set some of the costs to keep rents low is not feasible.
“The basic economics of rental housing … are hugely challenging, both in terms of operation and in building new rental, and it's increasingly becoming difficult to build new rental with still high construction costs, land costs and interest rates going up,” David Hutniak told CTV News.
“The conversation needs to shift,” he said. “This can't be done simply on the backs of the owners of these buildings and the developers of these buildings. This has to be addressed in the broader context of taxpayers and we need to share the cost of doing this.”
In the city’s draft proposal, the report said 83 per cent of the purpose-built rentals are at least 50 years old.
If the Broadway Plan goes ahead, it would be 2050 before the vision is actualized.
Hutniak said there should also be a focus on upgrading or replacing the aging rentals.
“They're going to be at the end of their functional life before the Broadway area plan runs its 30-year course. So we need to have a conversation about how how do we protect renters, but how do we ensure that there's a business case to maintain these old buildings to redevelop them to ensure that we have the housing supply that we need for both current and future renters,” he said.
Current residents have raised concerns about how those protections will be enforced if developers will buy into the idea.
But Gharibnavaz is skeptical the plan will actually protect the interests of renters.
“When city planners and politicians in an election year tell you that no tenants will pay any more rent after redevelopment based off of their proposed policies, do not believe them,” he said.
Stewart made a final pitch in support of the plan last Thursday.
He campaigned for more rental housing back in 2018 and it appears to remain a key part of his campaign with just five months until the next municipal election.
The draft plan will go to council Wednesday for a vote.
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