Today Vancouver city council passed a motion to rezone 800 Griffiths Way, a North False Creek property adjacent to the Rogers Arena. The property is owned by Aquilini Investment Group and will be used for three market rental towers totaling 614 units of market housing on top of commercial and office space.
According to Connor Donegan of the Vancouver Renters’ Union, the housing will be “severely unaffordable for working people in Vancouver.” Units will be priced at $2,000 per month for 900 sq. ft. units. During public hearings for the project, renters pushed the city for rent caps on a large number of units.
Opponents to the project were joined by COPE in criticizing the city’s decision to forego normal development fees and taxes, amounting to a $35 million loss for the city. According to page 16 of the city staff’s policy report for the project, the exemptions were approved because the developer decided to build rental instead of condos. Condo marketer Bob Rennie estimates that in Vancouver up to 60% of market condo units currently rent and are not owner-occupied.
The policy report signals that planners will no longer be following the planning department’s Official Development Plan for North False Creek (NFC ODP), which states that all new projects in the area must include 20% non-market housing. According to the policy report, the Aquilini project will bring a decrease in the percentage of affordable housing units provided within the FCN from 12.53% to 11.81%.
The project was approved as part of the city’s Housing and Homelessness strategy, which offers fee exemption and tax cuts to incentivize market housing in Vancouver. The city also states that the Aquilini project “aligns with the emerging directions from the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing affordability.”
Despite criticism, city councillors maintain that the Aquilini project tackles the city’s housing shortage and that the project contributes to the City’s affordable housing goals identified in the Housing and Homelessness Strategy. Yesterday city councillor Geoff Meggs told CKNW that the Aquilini project is “a huge addition to a rental supply in a very important part of the city.”
An article posted at The Mainlander states that the city’s Ten Year Plan for housing anticipates spending $42 million in land and grants for 20,000 private condos and 11,000 market rental units. This target anticipates a zero-level growth in the rate of housing construction. The current yearly average for the city is roughly 3,000 market units per year.