Platform Affordable Housing

Affordable Housing

Our ideas for addressing the housing affordability crisis: RITE Richmond Housing Platform,

These are some ideas that we offer for addressing housing affordability.  These ideas are our reasoned hunches and what we have learned over a course of time from reading the city’s reports on affordability, talking to residents and reading about affordability initiatives elsewhere in B.C. and globally.  These ideas will continue to be shaped by the city’s residents, planners and other experts in affordable housing strategies.

The city should use a three pronged approach to try to address this housing crisis:

  1. Build more affordable housing.
  2. Discourage housing speculation
  3. Preserve older affordable housing stock

1. OPTIONS  for Building more affordable housing

  • Partner with provincial and federal government to build more Co-Op housing as this model successfully ties housing to local incomes.
  • Rental tenure zoning must be used to create more rental housing and protect existing rental housing.
  • Add density for building affordable housing units at below market income indexed rates for low and fixed income earners when re-developing municipal buildings.  This would result in significant savings on land and development costs.
  • Encourage and develop mixed-use neighborhoods/buildings to create vibrant and self sufficient neighborhoods and opportunities for local commerce.
  • Build more affordable and human scale density with greater percentage of affordable housing units instead of just cramming tall towers in the centre of the city.
  • Encourage building greater percentage of 2 and 3 bedroom modest homes for families and downsizing seniors in new multi family construction.
  • Mix social and market housing.
  • Consider using prefab / modular homes to reduce building costs and speed up construction.   
  • Follow a housing first model for housing the homeless quickly through temporary or permanent modular housing as  funding become available from the provincial  or federal government.
  • City could lease land long term for building affordable housing and fast track development permit applications for affordable housing.
  • Tie cash-in-lieu contributions to some measure of market change in construction costs.  Right now there is no correlation between cash in lieu contributions and the price per square foot at which the re-developed homes are sold and this needs to change.
  • Builders should be asked to build more LEMR (low end market rental)/affordable housing when parcels are re-zoned for density.  This LEMR contribution is only required when building 60 units or more and should apply to much smaller developments.

2. Discourage housing speculation, Encourage long term affordable rentals 

  • An empty homes List and lobby province for an empty homes tax.
  • Vacancy tax revenue to be earmarked for building and supporting affordable housing.
  • A city commissioner to help homeowners navigate city regulation to support AFFORDABLE long term rentals.
  • Property tax reduction to homeowners who provide long term affordable rentals
  • Review short term rental bylaw to disincentivize short term rentals of when home is not the primary residence of the owner.
  • Form a renter’s advisory committee to advocate for renter issues.
  • Give incentives for building affordable purpose built rental buildings.

3.Preserving older housing stock and ensure co-existence of older and newer homes 

  • Work with stratas to provide  safeguards and incentives to ensure older housing stock of multi-family homes and co-ops stays in good shape as it works well for providing affordable housing.
  • Create incentives  that allow co-existence of older housing stock with the newer housing stock and scale down disruptive architecture in new-builds.
  • Put policies in place that incentivize renovation over demolition and encourage a much greater percentage of recycling for demolition waste.
  • Lobby the province to simplify building requirements for legalizing long term rental suites to promote legalization of existing long term rental suites.
  • Legalize city approved prefab or custom made laneway homes in approved areas of the city to add additional supply of rental homes and provide opportunity for seniors to age in place.
  • Map out the housing stock in each neighborhood so that area development plans can take into account the existing housing stock and anticipated needs of residents.

RATIONALE For the RITE Richmond housing platform (2018):

Why these actions are needed?  The context of speculation in housing and how city’s policies are not doing much to curb this trend.

  • Richmond BC has added 1600 affordable housing units but what is not often publicized is that  this addition was over a period of 10 years (from 2007-2017), so a total of just 160 units a year.  Also in the last four and a half units we have demolished many perfectly livable 2-3 bedroom older homes (between 400-500 homes each year) and built massive five and six bedroom luxury homes without replacing the stock of modest two and three bedrooms anywhere in the city.  When not owner-occupied many of these older homes were being used as relatively affordable rentals.  In-fact according to the city’s affordable housing report about 80 % of the city’s renters find rentals in this secondary market of older homes.  So the NET effect on affordable housing stock and rental stock in Richmond has been negative.
  • By refusing to count empty homes (condos, townhomes and single family homes) in the city and refusing to lobby for an empty homes tax; city policies are facilitating housing speculation which allows homes to be hoarded as parking for wealth rather than for living.  Our short term rental bylaw has loopholes that allow return on investment through lucrative short term rentals without the home having to be owner occupied.  This practice also reduces the supply for long term rentals.  Empty homes create an inefficiency in the market and the all taxpayers service the cost of this inefficiency.  So the rewards for holding homes empty are to individual owners while the costs are public in more than one way.
  • Density in the downtown core has not brought the promised relief of affordability.  In new high-rise developments in the downtown core we are building too many studios and single bedrooms compared to 2 and 3 bedrooms that families and seniors need.  I think we cannot have affordability without density but we can have density without affordability and that is what Richmond is building, “unaffordable density”.  The cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the centre of Richmond is close to half a million dollars while 38.8 % of Richmond households have a gross local income of under 50, 000 per year and 59.4 % households earn under $ 80,000 a year.  There is no match between housing costs and local incomes and even though we have seen a building boom over the last 4-5 years, we are not building for local demand at all. 
  • With the new trend of strata termination and redevelopment and destruction of the older stock of much more affordable multi family homes, Richmond is under threat to lose the last bastion of affordability. 
  • We need to turn this ship around because stable and affordable housing is the key to a healthy and vibrant community.