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Vancouver’s incoming mayor says he wants the development industry to know the city is open for business on housing as the city banks on developer fees to support its capital plan.

Mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart inherits the challenge of tackling one of the continent’s most difficult housing crises when he takes office on Monday. With more than half of the city’s capital plan funding to come from developer fees, he will need to work with a divided council to realize the city’s ambitions while ensuring the development industry is motivated to participate.

Mr. Stewart said he recognizes people may be feeling uncertain about what the new council – made up of four different parties along with an independent mayor – will do in terms of approvals for new condo or rental projects.

In the past, representatives from the Non-Partisan Association, which will have five of 11 seats on council, and the Green Party, which will have three, have voted against many projects that went ahead because the Vision Vancouver majority approved them.

But Mr. Stewart, who has been meeting with each party to find out their priorities, said he is sure there are initiatives a majority of councillors can agree on. He’ll aim to get those through to show the new council has a coherent approach to development.

“The early signals we have to send is that we have our act together and that we can deliver what the city needs,” said Mr. Stewart. He cited the example of former independent mayor Mike Harcourt, who "delivered a lot of housing for the city. I would say give us a chance to prove that we can do this.”

City council has approved a capital plan that relies heavily on developer contributions through fees and community-amenity contributions.

The $2.8-billion plan, the largest the city has ever proposed, committed $540-million for affordable housing, $234-million for community facilities, $264-million for parks, and $311-million for transportation and streets, among other things.

But more than half of the money – $1.6-billion – is supposed to come from development fees. Outgoing councillor George Affleck said that could turn into a big problem for the city.

“It’s very, very risky to put out a plan that relies so heavily on this,” Mr. Affleck said.

He noted it’s not out of the question that there could be a downturn in development if builders think they’re facing a hostile council on top of rising costs of construction, land and financing.

“I would say given the council make-up, there will be less interest in development in Vancouver,” Mr. Affleck said. “If we approve capital items, we may have to borrow the money.”

The Green Party’s Adriane Carr said her team is committed to asking developers for more community benefits and more below-market housing in their projects than ever before.

The city declined to provide a senior manager or planner to talk about the state of the capital plan, but the communications office sent a statement noting some of the required funding from developer fees is already in the bank, including over $400-million of development contribution reserves and $400-million of pending cash from community amenity contributions.

Besides Mr. Stewart’s efforts to send clear signals to the development industry that their projects will get a fair shake from council, city planners are looking at rental projects they can bring forward in order to test new councillors’ appetite for approvals.

While rental projects might seem like an easy win, Ms. Carr, along with some other new councillors, said the city hasn’t done enough in the past to ensure rents are low. She said the city should also be asking that half of all units in the city be sold or rented at a price that’s affordable for households making less than the median income in the city.

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