Vancouver CLT

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Canvas Network:

"How is this case different from subsidized rental housing with all its long waiting lists? Is it little more than an accommodation to the status quo? It does seem to hold out any real hope for real change in Vancouver, one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Good questions.

First, as revealed in the Edmonton case, to reclaim one piece of private land to be stewarded as a commons for community benefit is complicated and a lot of work. The Vancouver case is also very complicated.

However, it is not focused on reclaiming private land but rather reframing the way in which the use of land owned by the city of Vancouver is decided on and how it is stewarded for public benefit rather than private profit. (note – the local government is the biggest land owner in Vancouver)

Normally the city has sold their land to private developers. If there is any concern for affordable housing they negotiate to negotiate terms in the deal that specifies some affordable units being set aside.

If you watched the video I made on Vancouver CLT, you may recall the developers argued that prices would only come down through increasing the supply – in short, market determinism. City real estate and finance staff argue the their mandate is to maximize financial return on city assets for their citizens thus the preference for selling off property to the highest bidder (also market determinism). Meanwhile the city council, which is relatively progressive, saw the accelerating housing costs as a major factor increasing economic and social risks; something different had to happen – but what

My argument to the Mayor’s task force was contentious but simple. First, the developers arguments that it was all a matter of supply and demand was specious and I challenged them to provide proof this was the case in Vancouver; they couldn’t. Second, I argued that maximizing financial return has little to do with economic benefit to citizens. Third, I reinforced that the social and economic health of the city required placing social goals at the heart of an economically sensible approach to use of city land. (economically sensible meaning social goals being met sustainably) When it came to housing I argued that the CLT was a robust and proven model for doing so, and further, it would yield significant economic and social returns in perpetuity, and, it should be piloted. The argument was won despite push back from some of the developers and their supporters on city staff. This Vancouver case study deals with came out winning this debate, thus creating the space for city council and the staff to undertake a pilot.

Second, actors in the social and solidarity economy came to the table as partners to propose the CLT strategy. They guaranteed that the CLT and their business model would provide a significant number of affordable homes at or slightly below the 30% of gross household income. Moreover, it would do so without federal or provincial subsidies which, at the time, were largely absent from the scene.

The CLT partnership coop and non-profit housing partners has achieved a mix of market and non-market housing that cuts across income levels. Because of the business model, the entire 352 units are all below market. Key is the cohort of higher income people pay 90% of market, the profit from which flows through the business model to ensure lower-income tenants that have security of tenure and affordable rent in perpetuity.

It is complicated; this is true. But is it not the case that the commons has been advanced, community benefit generated and property rights transformed with respect to the goals and the covenants embedded in the agreements?" (email, April 2017)