Fact sheet: Vancouver’s commitment to housing

New Units Planned in Vancouver:

The City has almost 500 new units of low-income housing becoming available over the next few years:

  • 200 non-market housing units have been allocated to the Woodward’s redevelopment, currently under construction, in partnership with the Provincial government.
  • 92 units are allocated to 65 East Hastings Street, which will begin construction next month, in partnership with the Provincial government.
  • L’Hermitage will include 46 self contained non-market units that were negotiated as part of the SRA Conversion and Demolition Permit for the Passlin Hotel.
  • The City together with the Province and Vancouver Coastal Health has agreed to fund an 87 unit social housing building at 1321 Richards which will start construction next year.
  • The Pennsylvania Hotel at 412 Carrall Street will reopen as social housing, in partnership with the Provincial and Federal governments
  • Planning has begun for 250 non-market housing units in the Athlete’s Village at Southeast False Creek, which represents a $65 million investment by the City.

In 2005:

  • The Granville Hotel, purchased and renovated by the City, re-opened with 83 self-contained units.

Potential Sites:

  • The City owns or has options on 19 vacant sites that it has earmarked for development into social housing. Three of these are in the Downtown Eastside.
  • The City only collects 8 cents of every dollar collected in taxes. 92 cents goes to senior levels of government. Consequently, the City does not have the resources to build or operate new social housing.
  • We are looking to senior governments to fund the construction and operation of these units.
  • Increasingly, we are also looking to the community and private sector to contribute to the solutions. That is why we recently hired former City Manager Ken Dobell to investigate new models for financing supportive housing.

City Protection of SRA hotels:

  • Most SRO hotels are privately owned buildings. Consequently, the City only has limited ability to control these units.
  • The City of Vancouver has two bylaws that affect SRAs:
    • The Single Room Accommodation Bylaw manages the rate of conversion or demolition of SRO hotel units in the downtown core. Any SRO owner wishing to demolish or convert housing stock requires approval from Council. Council can attach conditions to an SRA Permit, for example, charging a $5,000 per room fee for any units lost. BUT THE BYLAW CAN’T CONTROL WHO LIVES IN THE ROOMS. IF AN OWNER CHOOSES TO RENT TO STUDENTS, THE CITY CANNOT TELL THEM NOT TO.
    • The Standards of Maintenance Bylaw allows city officials to order building owners to make MINOR repairs. Owners can be ordered to comply with certain standards such as maintaining cleanliness. THE BYLAW DOES NOT AND CANNOT ADDRESS MAJOR REPAIRS, LIKE STRUCTURAL DEFICIENCIES OR REPLACEMENT OF PLUMBING OR WIRING.

Apparent Loss of SRO housing:

  • The City’s biannual survey counts the total number of rooms in SRO hotels and lodging houses, in social housing, and in special needs residential facilities. If a room in an SRO hotel or lodging house exists and is renting on a monthly basis it is counted in the survey.
  • The recent report by Pivot Legal Society subtracts out any room which rents above $380 a month, and any room that may rent to students or members of cultural societies.
  • City can’t control who the SRO owner rents to —- if they decide to rent to students, the City has no jurisdiction to tell them not to.
  • The City cannot control how much the rooms rent for. In June 2005, the City found that only 20% of SRO rooms rent at shelter allowance rates.
  • However you interpret the numbers, we can all agree that more decent low-income housing is needed.

Who is responsible for providing new social housing:

  • It has historically been the mandate of senior governments to provide social housing
  • However, a municipal government cannot control real estate prices. As well, the municipal government is also the level of government with the least amount of financial resources — receiving only 8 cents of every tax dollar.
  • Ultimately, the federal and provincial governments need to return to the table and restore or increase their level of funding for social housing.
  • As well, we need to look at how the community and corporations can play a role in providing much needed funding to these kinds of investments.

Municipal Government Share of All Tax Revenues


Source: Restoring Municipal fiscal Balance, Federation of Canadian Municipalities (June 2006)

What is Vancouver doing:

  • Within our abilities, the City has been doing what it can to help address this issue.
  • The City has worked to secure 500 new units of low-income housing with many becoming available over the next few years.
  • The City has also purchased or has options on 19 other sites that are currently waiting for funding from other levels of government in order to develop.
  • The City policy is to buy one SRO per year to operate as non-market housing.
  • One site has been purchased in 2006: 1721 – 1723 Main Street.
  • The City also created The Single Room Accommodation Bylaw to help manage the rate of conversion or demolition of SRO hotel units.
  • The City operates a portfolio of social housing including several SRO buildings.
  • Council has strongly encouraged the Provincial government on several occasions to increase the shelter allowance.
  • The City in partnership with the Vancouver Agreement is implementing an SRO Pilot program which provides tenant supports, staff management training and federal grants (RRAP) to upgrade hotels.
  • The City recently hired former City Manager Ken Dobell to investigate new models for financing supportive housing for those who are addicted and have mental health issues.
  • The City has created the Homeless Action Plan and the Housing Plan which outlines strategies for creating more affordable housing in Vancouver.