In Support of Purpose-Built Rental Housing for Families

At last night’s Vancouver City Council meeting, I spoke in favour of a development that would add 110 secured rental housing units at 18th and Commercial (a primarily detached house neighbourhood in Vancouver, outside of the city core). 37% of the units in this development would be 2 and 3 bedroom units (the city only requires 25%).

(video of my speech)

Vancouver needs more secured rental housing for families as freehold ownership of nearly any type of built form – home or condo – is now a pipe dream for most of us. Purpose-built rental housing (not private landlords) are one of the few remaining ways to achieve housing security.

Plenty of elder NIMBYs attended this meeting, as they did the May 24th one, loudly heckling, name-calling and so forth. But for once the YIMBY side turned out in equal numbers.

Final decision on this development is expected at Tuesday, June 28th’s council meeting.

[Update: On June 28th, city council voted to approve this development! They cited aspects of what we talked to in their rationale, i.e. the need for secured family rentals. Great news.]

For the text of my speech, read on:

My name is Adrian Crook. I’m a single dad to five kids, all of us living in a condo in Vancouver. A couple years ago, I started my 5 Kids 1 Condo.com blog to discuss the benefits of dense urban living with a family. Through my blog, I’ve subsequently met and helped several families migrate to urban condos from detached houses as far away as Alberta.

 

Unfortunately, over the last few years that I’ve lived in Vancouver, the rental housing market has deteriorated: vacancy rates are at historic lows, AirBnB has taken a chunk out of the rental market, and housing prices are driving landlords to sell their rental properties. It was always tough to find a good family condo. I’ve seen more than a few window-less pantries used as nurseries. But it’s vastly more difficult now.

 

Three years ago, I got a really really good deal on my place – $2200 a month for a 2 bedroom and den. But if I were forced to find a new place to live today, my rent would be closer to $3,000 for something similar. As a result, my biggest concern now is housing security for my family. What happens if I’m evicted due to renovation or resale? How do I secure a place for my family in Vancouver?

 

There are precious few solutions to my housing security issue.

 

Purchasing my condo isn’t an option. I’m self-employed and a single income household, so I have to keep my fixed costs down in the event my income fluctuates. Just last week, an identical unit to mine 16 floors below me listed for $800K. To buy this, even with $100K down, would mean a monthly mortgage payment of over $4,000 – then $450 of strata fees and property taxes as well.

 

My fixed costs would double from what they are today, which is not something I can afford.

 

Applying to co-ops might be a way to achieve housing security for my family, but most have income caps that disqualify me, reducing my options in that area significantly.

 

Leaving Vancouver isn’t what I want to do either. I’ve lived in enough places around North America to know how special Vancouver is.

 

So what I’m left with is looking for purpose-built, family-friendly rental buildings like what’s being proposed today. Buildings with a higher proportion of 2 and 3 bedroom units, with reasonable rents, amenities suitable for families, in neighbourhoods where families want to live – like Commercial Drive.

 

Commercial Drive is a fantastic location for families, being on transit, skytrain, close to parks like Trout Lake and Clark Park, with shops and services all within walking distance. And hopefully a protected bike lane soon too.

 

It’s said that kids are an indicator species of a healthy city. But to get kids into these urban neighbourhoods, we need to create housing options families can afford. This development promises to be one of them.

 

Unfortunately, as a city we’re approaching the residential densification issue on a case-by-case basis, leading to individual “neighbourhood character” battles like this one.

 

Detached home ownership is an antiquated, expensive and burdensome phenomenon that’s past its prime. What the city pays to service my condo with police, fire, garbage and so forth is literally half of what the city pays to service a typical detached house. My hydro bill averages $40 a month for a family of 6. We take transit, walk, bike and car-share everywhere, because we don’t need to own a car.

 

This is the model of the future.

 

It’s time to forego the notion that keeping our neighbourhoods entirely unaffected by forces of change – be they financial, environmental, or societal – is a realistic way forward.

 

3365 Commercial is the type of housing Vancouver families desperately require.

 

I support this development.

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Adrian Crook is a father of five living in beautiful downtown Vancouver, Canada. When he's not mobbed by his brood, he runs a successful videogame design consulting business.
  • great presentation.

  • leechap

    I take issue with much of what you say here. It is very skewed, and unfair. Yes, there were a few squawks from the gallery when some of the supporters of the project spoke, but the insulting language came your side
    of the debate. You are perpetuating this same divisive tone here by this name-calling, using the pejorative terms “nimby” and “elders”. Speakers against the project stuck to the topic. Nobody said don’t build a rental project here, nobody insulted younger people. Not one of the supporters live in the neighbourhood or understand the challenges the community faces, the history of this site, or the details of the project itself. Your facile speeches could translate verbatim to any pro-development forum anywhere. You’re using a lazy and disrespectful ‘us vs them’ meme. Having read your blog I suspect in your life you are a better, more nuanced person than this. I hope you have the humility to take a look at how you’re treating this subject and perhaps realize that it is not as simple and one-sided as you have portrayed.

  • Brian Bruise

    I am a senior renter who lives in the neighbourhood who also spoke at the meeting and agree with “leechap”‘s view of what actually went on at the meeting. But judge for yourself, watch the entirety of the meeting and you will see how supportive the “opponents” were to a scaled down development and affordable rental for young families, taking into account the issues of school spaces, traffic and parking, green space and other community infrastructure. Here is the link – see the June 23rd meeting listed and click on “Watch this Video”. If it doesn’t start running right away, click on the bar a minute into the meeting.

    For the record, Brian Bruise is my nom de plume as a commentator on various sites. My real name is Brian Waite.

    • Hmm, I was at the meeting, so I don’t need to watch the video again. Of the first 10 speakers, half were “for” and half were “against”. Of the “against” camp, half simply hurled insults at the mayor and council. But toward the latter half of the meeting there were better speakers, I’ll give you that.

      The project’s already lost nearly 40% of its FSR (density) in the 3 years it’s been in the application process. It’s already been scaled down quite a bit.

      Anyway, all moot points now that it’s been approved.

  • Brian Bruise

    See I really am a senior!. Here is the referenced link:

    https://covapp.vancouver.ca/councilMeetingPublic/CouncilMeetings.aspx?SearchType=3

  • bcgirl

    Housing issues are complex, but with simple solutions in my view. The taxes we pay to the provincial and federal governments are being used to fund corporate ventures rather than society’s needs. Case in point; Federal government used to build housing. That stopped in the 80’s and never started again-yet the money to fund the needs of corporation keeps rolling out from our tax dollars. For example-B.C. schools are underfunded and understaffed, for years now, arguably it’s a set up for closing the publicly funded school system choreographed by the B.C. government and yet, funding for private schools, out of the very same taxes we pay for public schools, is higher than ever and keeps rising. Christy Clarke’s son goes to a private school. John Ralston Saul wrote about what is currently happening in our society back in the early 90’s in a book called Unconscious Civilization- basically what we pay in taxes in being squandered, used to fund pet projects of politicians and fund corporations, while our social pillars, B.C. medical, housing, E.I., etc., etc., frigging etc., are being bled dry. And we the citizen are being forced to pick up the slack-think of GoFundMe as an extreme offshoot of this-no more social services to support people in need. Think how corporations are funding libraries in schools?!? Rather than the taxes we pay to do that very thing. How about gym, art and music-for most schools that’s gone. We want a park built in the neighbourhood-our taxes no longer pay for stuff like that. My god, last year Vancouver voted no on paying for Transit funding outside of the ministry that is supposed to be doing the funding. Thankfully people understood that something was fundamentally wrong with the question-why the fuck is the ministry responsible for transit not paying for the funding? Avoided a quagmire with that one. And we are just sitting back and allowing this to happen rather than demanding accountability for what our tax dollars are spent on.

    Second case in point; how can we afford to build housing if we are not even taxing foreign buyers 15%? Every other country in the world does it-why not the Liberals? Nor are we taxing people who’s families live here, use our social services, and everything we have to offer but they get away without paying any B.C. taxes?!?! We are missing out on a huge fund of money to pay for affordable housing and other things such as transit. Make our government account for the largest money making sector in B.C., and tax the hell out of it for starters. People will still want to move here in droves-yes, Liberal spin doctors, this is one of the best places on earth.

    Lastly, labeling people a nimby is rude at best. Will not make you, or anyone who does so, any friends, but will pit people against each other rather than making alliances for solutions. Last time I checked, elders were considered wise and able to help, or give advice to the younger ones making a go of it in an ever changing and challenging world. Think twice about labels-they will harm you and others, and diminish what you say.

    You have a good platform to speak from, make connections and include all because last time I checked, according all the publications out there, people who make $60-90,000 a year will not be able to afford a condo in Vancouver within 8 years or less. On top of that, foreign buyers are leveling houses with rental units and rebuilding luxury houses with absolutely no potential for a rental unit on the premises. At an alarming rate.

    1.Organize groups to force the Liberals to tax foreign buyers, and make foreign buyers pay B.C. taxes if their families live here-even if they work outside the country.
    2. Demand that affordable rental units remain in houses that already have legal rental units after a person buys the house might be an idea.
    3. Demand the Federal government build affordable housing.
    4. Organize citizens groups to talk about what is really “affordable”, last time I checked all the new purpose built apartments you are fighting for are not “affordable”. A 2-3 bedroom will rent for $3,000 plus, the very thing you are railing against. Developers will not build new building and charge old housing prices for it.

    So be careful what you advocate for. Advocating for new housing to tear down existing affordable rentals, as scarce as they are are, will only make room for outrageously priced new housing. Go after the real culprits-the people who manage our tax dollars.

  • Smile

    Another excellent post Adrian Crook! I’m taking notes for my own pitch for dense urban affordable family housing in Kelowna! This housing crisis is crippling too many families!

    • Thanks! Crazy how many communities are affected by these same issues. We tend to think of Vancouver as a bubble, but almost everywhere we look is being affected by the same issues these days.

  • Stephanie Maurer

    Just a chime in from someone in the Midwest, I think a lot of us here have no idea of the prices you all are facing with regards to housing. I obviously do not know how our incomes here stack up to those there but we could never pay the rent or price for the unit. Just as an example we have a 2bd/2bt condo with office and 2 sun porches on a wooded area with lake access purchased for 96k. It has right at 1600 square ft.
    Our apt rents in this area are from 700-1400. The area we are in is tops in our state as well.
    So glad that you are advocating and being a voice for families in your area.
    I am just baffled as to how families are affording to purchase there.
    Keep up the fight for quality lives for families!

    • I used to live in Houston, Texas, so I totally get how expensive it is here relative to the mid-West. But those prices you quote are insane… wow… lucky. Families really can’t afford to purchase here, which is why purpose-built rental – i.e. rental that’s not via a private landlord who bought the condo unit, let’s say – is so important. It’s the only path to housing security for those of us who can’t afford to pay $5-6K per month for a mortgage/condo fee.

      • Stephanie Maurer

        It is so important that you and others are making a stand and speaking for your families and for other families. I will be looking more into this and following the progress.