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. He's an advocate for rental housing and public transit.
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