Developers break ground on rental-only housing project

Developers broke ground Tuesday on the first rental-only housing project in Vancouver since 2007.

The developers of the project at 1142 Granville St., Bosa-backed Blue sky Properties, became the first to use a year-old city-backed incentive program aimed at helping the beleaguered construction industry and getting much-needed rental housing built in a city where more than half the residents rent.

The 10-storey, 106-unit rental building between Helmcken and Davie streets is the first of as many as a dozen projects developers have offered to build under the city’s Short Term Incentives for Rental housing program or STIR, a two-year trial in which the city is offering steep rollbacks in the demands it places on developers.

In this case, Vancouver is waiving development cost and amenity charges for the rental units, reducing the number of parking spaces normally required and allowing a higher density and smaller unit sizes, according to Dale Bosa, the president of Blue sky.

In return, the project will be dedicated as rental-only for at least 60 years or the life of the building, whichever is greater. That, says Mayor Gregor Robertson, is a fair trade as the city desperately needs rental housing.

“The number of buildings that have been purpose-built for rental housing over the last couple of decades is a small number and nowhere near what is required to replenish the stock … that has dwindled over the decades,” Robertson said.

So far the city has received 12 applications around the city to build buildings that would house 1,000 rental units.

It’s nowhere near the number needed, Robertson said, but it far outstrips the average of 137 rental units built annually in the city, most with public money.

More than half of Vancouver residents rent, but rental only buildings account for just six per cent of stock. The rest live in strata condo developments, he said.

The units on Granville will primarily be studios.

Source: The Vancouver Sun

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