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Housing dominates next week's Vancouver council agenda

Politicians push for rental housing in Shaughnessy, more homes near schools, on city land.
A series of motions related to creating more housing in Vancouver will go before council next week and includes a request to build rental and non-market homes in Shaughnessy.

City councillors Christine Boyle, Lenny Zhou and Mayor Ken Sim all have motions to go before council next week that aim to unlock more housing in Vancouver, including adding rental and non-market homes in Shaughnessy.

Boyle is focused on Shaughnessy, where she said in a news release Wednesday that rental and non-market housing could be added to the neighbourhood without displacing current residents.

“Over my lifetime, the population of the City of Vancouver has grown by nearly 60%, while the population of Shaughnessy has shrunk,” the OneCity councillor said. “It’s not good for the health of a centrally located neighbourhood, and it’s not fair to every other neighbourhood across Vancouver.”

Under the status quo, Shaughnessy is a wealthy neighbourhood of mansions, wide boulevards and leafy trees, whose exclusionary character is protected by municipal land-use policy, the release said.

Boyle’s motion, if passed, would end this exclusion, directing staff to create a plan to add “badly needed housing” as well as shops and services, amid a housing crisis, to bring the neighbourhood’s density up to the city’s average by 2050.

“Adding new homes in Shaughnessy for people of all incomes means more people can live close to Vancouver’s major job hubs,” Boyle said. “This will reduce carbon emissions, and more residents can benefit from the heritage and the tree canopy in this beautiful place.”

Her motion is supported by Abundant Housing Vancouver director Owen Brady, who said in the organization’s own news release that it is time to “legalize more housing” in Shaughnessy, which he pointed out already has great access to frequent bus service.

'Generally declining enrolment'

Abundant Housing also supports a motion from Zhou, who wants more housing built near schools with declining enrolment — a decline he suggests is connected to families unable to afford homes.

Zhou pointed out in his motion that the school district has seen a 26-year history of “generally declining enrolment” despite an overall increase in Vancouver’s population.

“Several factors have contributed to this enrolment decline, including an aging population, a reduced birth rate, and housing unaffordability and unattainability that has resulted in a greater number of families with school-aged children moving out of the city,” the councillor said.

“Families with children are key to a diverse and vibrant society. Making sure Vancouver has the right kinds of housing to support families is therefore important to the overall success of our city.”

Housing on city land

The mayor’s motion directs staff to expand the existing mandate of the newly created Vancouver Housing Development Office, which presently includes non-market housing delivery and oversight of the Vancouver Affordable Housing Endowment Fund.

The mayor wants the office to include an additional responsibility to create and deliver middle-income housing on city-owned land other than the endowment fund properties.

The motions from Boyle, Zhou and Sim come after council voted unanimously in September to open up neighbourhoods across the city to allow for the development of multiplexes. This means a developer could build up to six strata units — or up to eight secured rental units on larger properties — on lots previously reserved for single-family homes or duplexes.

Last month, council also directed staff to accelerate the prezoning of 26 “village areas” in the city to increase the supply of townhouses, multiplex buildings and mixed-use low-rise buildings between three to six storeys.

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