Vancouver is proposing a 10-year plan that focuses on building tens of thousands of rental apartments, suppressing speculation and matching the units built to income levels, an effort to address anger over a housing crisis in the city.
"There's some big moves here that haven't been done before," said Gil Kelley, the city's general manager of planning. "We are setting housing-production goals by income level."
A multifaceted report released on Thursday, which will be voted on at city council next Tuesday, is aimed at tackling a huge range of issues.
Many of these have been discussed already during the past 14 months, such as the idea of a new kind of rental-housing initiative where developers get incentives if they guarantee that a fifth of the units in a project are made available for rents affordable to people making as little as $30,000 a year.
Another has been a move to allow more small units in the city's huge tracts of single-family neighbourhoods by permitting homeowners to build infill houses as well as adding up to two internal units on lots with pre-1940s homes.
Others ideas were new in Thursday's report.
One recommendation is to reduce speculation in areas where the city is developing new neighbourhood plans by setting out early what the requirements will be for rental or subsidized housing in the new zone.
Developers, knowing that the numbers of for-sale apartments or townhouses will be limited, will be less likely to pay exorbitant amounts of money for land – something that happened in recent years along the Cambie corridor after it was rezoned for apartments to create density along the Canada Line.
That new approach would be used for areas about to go through rezoning processes, including the Broadway corridor and three SkyTrain station areas.
"That is a game-changer for Vancouver," Mr. Kelley said.
The city has already moved in the past year to create the city's first empty-homes tax and Canada's first regulations for short-term vacation rentals, in an effort to reduce the use of housing as an investment or business. The plan envisions pushing for more initiatives at the provincial level to reduce speculation in residential housing.
Another idea is to create a tenant-protection manager at the city, someone who would ensure that tenants are not, for example, evicted by a landlord claiming to be doing extensive renovations when that person hasn't actually even obtained any permits yet.
A third is to allow more than five unrelated people to live together, replacing an old bylaw that has discouraged collective-living arrangements in the city.
Ultimately, city planners say they want to see 72,000 new units of housing built in Vancouver in the next 10 years, but in specific categories.
They have set targets of 24,000 purpose-built rentals, 12,000 social-housing or co-op units and 36,000 ownership units, which would include coach houses as well as condos. It is expected that about 12,000 of those purchased units would end up being rented out. About half the units in the plan are geared to households with less than $80,000 a year in income.
Mr. Kelley said he believes having a greater amount of rental in the mix of new housing will help reduce costs overall because it will keep the price of land from escalating so much.
"Rental doesn't have the same impact on land speculation [as condos]," he said.
The city's communications team lined up community advocates to speak in favour of the new housing plan, including Andrew Sakamoto from the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre.
"I'd like to say how exciting it is to see renter issues get more attention," said Mr. Sakamoto, who described the calls that are currently inundating his agency from tenants facing everything from illegal application fees to illegal evictions. "It is refreshing to see the city improve their accessibility as a resource to tenants."
Jake Fry, a long-time advocate and builder of laneway houses in the city, said the changes will help bring more affordable forms of housing to the city's single-family zones.
Mr. Kelley said that if the plan is approved Tuesday, it will immediately come into effect.