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City of North Van tops list of delivering new rentals per capita

Only 68 rental units have been built in West Van in the past six years, according to a data report by Make Housing Central
A roofer completes work on a North Shore home. Almost all new units built in West Vancouver over the past six years have been for owners, while the district's housing needs report states that hundreds of rentals should be built. | Cindy Goodman / North Shore News files

When it comes to building new rentals, the City of North Vancouver is blazing ahead. Meanwhile, West Vancouver is barely building any at all.

New data gathered by Make Housing Central highlights where new housing is required based on municipalities’ own needs assessments, and measures how on-pace they are to meeting demand.

Out of 128 municipalities profiled by MHC – a collaboration between the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, Aboriginal Housing Management Association, and the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC – the City of North Vancouver ranked first.

In 2021, 67 per cent of newly constructed housing stock was rental in the city. Around 38 per cent was rental stock from 2015-2021, for a total of 1,768 units. Over that period, 2,839 condo and homeowner units were built and 27 co-op and social housing units. The vast majority of new stock is apartments, with relatively few single or semi-detached homes.

According to the city’s needs assessment, there are 840 non-market and 117 co-op units as of last year. With 768 households on the waitlist, the report indicated a greater need for non-market units, MHC notes.

The largest share of households on the waitlist for non-market housing are seniors (46 per cent), followed by families (28 per cent) and people with disabilities (17 per cent). The city’s needs report estimates that 1,894 more rental units are needed by 2031.

As municipalities are limited in their ability to deliver non-market housing, what MHC is really looking for is how local governments are handling rentals, says Erika Sagert, who worked on building the data for the organization’s policy team.

“And the City of North Vancouver, in particular, seems to really be punching above its weight,” she said. “When you’re looking at units that have been delivered to market per capita, they’re doing the best overall in Metro Vancouver.”

Over the past six years in West Vancouver, just 68 rental units have been built, while 1,244 condo and homeowner-occupied units went up. The majority of those rentals were built in 2021. By dwelling type, West Van is primarily building single-detached homes and some apartments.

But in another four years, the district anticipates that 465-843 new rental units will be required, as well as 874-1,238 new three-plus bedroom units (rental and owner occupied).

MHC’s report notes that the North Shore homelessness count increased 34 per cent to 121 people, from 2005-2020. And from 2013-2019, the waitlist for social housing in West Van rose 15 per cent to 120 people. Despite this, there were no units for individuals at risk of experiencing homelessness, nor shelter beds. As of 2019, there were a total of 497 units of non-market housing in the district.

In terms of the number of units West Van has delivered, the district comes second-last in all of Metro Vancouver, Sagert said. “They clearly haven’t placed much of a focus on delivering rentals, and that comes out in our data.”

“There’s really a clear gap there between what their own data has shown that they need versus what’s being delivered,” she added.

In the District of North Vancouver, around 30 per cent of new stock built over the past six years has been rental (1,234 units). In 2021, that proportion fell to 18 per cent. Last year, 64 per cent of new stock was condo and homeowner, and 18 per cent co-op and social housing. By dwelling type, the majority of new construction since 2015 has been apartments, with some single-detached homes.

According to the District of North Vancouver's needs report, as of 2016 there were 6,650 renters and 1,638 units in the primary market, meaning that only 25 per cent of renters lived in purpose-built rentals.

By 2031, there’s a projected demand for 1,553 new rental units, with a minimum of 1,135 at the low-end of the market.

As of 2021, there were 786 applicants on BC Housing’s waitlist – 46 per cent were seniors and 28 per cent families.

Between 2015 and 2021, the waitlist for supportive housing in the city and district of North Vancouver rose 235 per cent.

Local council plays 'very big role' in setting housing agenda

The goal of the MHC project is to provide voters and candidates with clear data on the specific housing needs of their communities, said Sagert, who also works as policy manager for the BC Non-Profit Housing Association.

“It’s a chance for them to understand exactly what housing needs there are locally, and also for candidates to signal to voters publicly, by taking our pledge, that they’re a part of the solution when it comes to the housing crisis in their community,” she said.

“We think local council has a very big role to play when it comes to setting the housing agenda,” Sagert said. “They can really shape the future of the community and particularly, can place an emphasis on the kind of housing options that are really needed.”

She acknowledges that when it comes to determining requirements for affordability, there is some nuance lacking in the data. But, in general, renters make around half of what owners do, “so it gives you a little bit of a sense of what the average and median incomes are.”

The data also lacks in that it fails to properly account for Indigenous people in urban settings, Sagert said.

“Municipalities tend to not focus specifically on Indigenous households, even though the data that we get from homeless counts from other areas like the census will tell you that there’s a disproportionate level of need amongst Indigenous households as a result of colonization and various forces throughout the years,” she continued.

Sagert said her organization will “definitely be watching” the politicians who have pledged to support affordable housing in their communities. A list of candidates who have made that pledge can be viewed on Make Housing Central’s website.

The MHC project combines data from the census, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.’s starts and completions data, as well as information from housing needs assessments completed by municipalities. Regional districts and municipalities in B.C. were required to complete these reports as of April 2022, and every five years after.

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