Vancouver CAC 2013
2013 Annual Report on Community Amenity Contributions and Density Bonusing
Standing Committee of Council on Planning, Transportation and Environment
21 January 2015 — Agenda Item No. 4
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Comment Presented to Council by Jeanette Jones
We have before us a comprehensive report on the CACs that were collected by the City of Vancouver in 2013. I would like to talk a little about CACs that were NOT collected.
The City of Vancouver advertises waiver of DCL fees as one of the incentives for developers to build secured market rental housing. What is less well known is that the City will probably not be collecting CACs on these developments either. In Norquay, we have just become aware that even projects located in zones that were assigned fixed rate CACs will very likely not be paying them if the developer is building secured market rental housing.
This would be more acceptable if the 886 units of secured market rental housing approved in 2013 were indeed “scattered across the city” as the reports states (p. 8). In actual fact, this is not the case. Nine of the eleven developments listed on page 10 of the report are concentrated in only a few neighbourhoods: Downtown, Downtown Eastside, Kensington-Cedar Cottage, and Renfrew-Collingwood. Non-market rental housing, which is exempt from paying CACs, is concentrated in the same areas.
The Downtown is already notoriously underserved with amenities such as parks, libraries and community centres. This also true of the Downtown Eastside, which along with Kensington-Cedar Cottage and Renfrew-Collingwood is among the poorest neighbourhoods of Vancouver.
Does rental housing in Vancouver need to become more affordable? Of course it does. Should Vancouver have more non-market or social rental housing? Of course we should. I am glad to see that Council is concerned with this problem. Should social housing be built primarily in East Vancouver? This makes sense. But this citywide social good — which is what “affordable rental housing” is — should not be built on the backs of Vancouver’s poorest and most neglected neighbourhoods.
The stated purpose of CACs according to the policy is “to help address growth costs, area deficiencies, and/or other community needs and impacts.” (p. 1 of Community Amenity Contributions Through Rezonings, adopted January 20, 1999 and last amended April 29, 2014.) The first guideline for determining specific amenities states that they “must be located in the community in which the rezoning takes place and/or serve the site” (p. 3). CACs are intended to provide real amenities to the specific community that is receiving the increased density. Current practice means that the City does not even collect many of the CACs that should be funding these amenities. Most of the CACs that actually are collected in these neighbourhoods are being spent to address a problem facing the entire City of Vancouver.
This is not fair. Citywide problems should be addressed with funding from citywide contributions. It is those who live in Vancouver’s most expensive residences who can best afford to help provide homes for those who are having trouble finding a place to live. The burden of funding affordable rental housing should not fall disproportionately on those neighbourhoods that are being rapidly densified, at the expense of the amenities that their new residents desperately need. I encourage Council and Staff to find alternative ways of financing affordable rental housing.
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Comment Presented to Council by Joseph Jones
In February 2014, at a technical briefing on the new plan for Downtown Eastside, my attention fastened on a statement that the City of Vancouver would undertake to monitor new development and to report back to Council.
The build-out in our own local area, Norquay, the heart of East Vancouver, receives no such attention. Nor does the build-out in any of the other new-community-plan neighborhoods. Our Vancouver planning machine is designed to wrap up, move on, and do zero monitoring afterward. Recommendation number one: Require ongoing assessment for all new community plans.
So, Jeanette and I now put in a lot of hours trying to do the monitoring for Norquay. This CAC agenda item provides an opportunity for us to express disappointment at how all-take-no-give the Norquay Plan has turned out so far. We now have four years of evidence. What follows is a case-study on large-site quantification to set alongside the macro problem that Jeanette has already outlined.
A little northwest of Norquay, in the first of CityPlan’s only-two-ever “neighbourhood centres,” stands King Edward Village. What did that massive development bring to the area in 2003? A CAC of $251,328.24. That’s probably less than the price of one of those 400+ condos. The money funded relocation of an adjacent existing library. Existing, so not a new amenity. In essence the library relocation was an on-site in-kind sweetheart deal for the developer.
Now on to Norquay. Our first CAC under the Norquay Plan produced a scrawny $105,846. That entire amount disappeared into some vague attempt to mitigate the shadows that 2711 Kingsway’s new tower cast over the adjacent daycare. All in all, this deal did more to damage the neighborhood than to enhance it.
Our second and only other CAC comes from 2220 Kingsway. The $4,011,720 sounds like significant money. But about one-quarter of that total is more in-kind funny-money accounting. Meaning that the stated $1 million plus costs the developer a lot less than book, and at the same time increases value for the project. What’s left over is $3 million cash that vanishes into indefinite sequestration. One thing seems certain. If and when the money re-emerges, it will buy a whole lot less than it would today. Recommendation number two: Require indexing and clear accountability for squirreled-away CACs.
Only ten years ago a community vision promised Norquay that future development would be conditional on “an increase in community facilities and programs needed to serve any population growth generated.” (p. 30, Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision). We can already see that Norquay is well ahead on the additional population we’re supposed to absorb over a period of thirty years.
Since Norquay Plan CAC is delivering nothing substantial to Norquay, Capital Plan funding needs to fill the gap now. Jeanette and I knocked as hard as we could on that door for Norquay in 2011, and we did the same again in 2014. We still have no idea whether we’re being heard on the other side of that door. I close with recommendation number three: Require significant 2015-2018 capital funding to be directed toward defined Norquay priorities.
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