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West Vancouver fails to meet province's six-month housing targets

The provincial housing goals are unrealistic, with several mitigating factors beyond municipal control, councillors argue

The District of West Vancouver isn’t meeting housing targets set by the provincial government last fall, and likely won’t be anytime soon.

That’s according to a six-month progress report required by the province, which district staff provided to council this week.

But most council members said their municipality isn’t unique, predicting a lot of local governments on the province’s “naughty list” will fail to meet their targets.

Councillors added many of the factors that go into housing construction – like interest rates and costs of labour and materials – are outside of the municipality’s ability to control. Some projects have been approved and owners haven’t been in any hurry build, they added.

In September, the province set a target of 1,432 new housing units for West Vancouver to have completed within the next five years – one of the first housing targets issued to local governments in B.C.

The target starts at 220 new units to be built by September 2024 and increases each year by between 240 and 375 housing units until September 2028.

So far, however, only 40 new housing units have been completed in the first six months – about 18 per cent of the district’s target set by the province, according to a staff report. That’s significantly less than the “interim target” of 110 housing units within the first six months, staff noted.

The province defines new housing completed as those which have been issued an occupancy permit, minus any housing demolished in the same time period.

As part of the report required, the district also provided information on housing units that are under construction but haven’t yet been completed. Those include 32 new homes that are either single-family, duplex units or secondary suites expected to be finished by September, while 244 are apartments that typically take multiple years to complete, according to staff.

The report noted a number of housing projects issued permits before October 2023 weren’t included in the report, although they are more likely to be built within the five-year time frame.

Those projects could potentially add 478 units to West Van’s housing supply.

In addition, applications for about 253 proposed housing units are currently under review by staff or council, according to the report.

Senior planner David Hawkins noted if the province finds West Vancouver’s actions towards creating housing unsatisfactory, it has the power to appoint an advisor who could force changes to local bylaws.

Coun. Linda Watt said that seems unlikely, given that most of the factors driving housing construction are beyond the municipality’s control.

“How on earth are they going to chase down every municipality in the province? And force these buildings, with the price of borrowing money right now and the cost of materials and labour. I just don’t know how any municipality is going to meet these expectations. So I think there’s going to be a whole new line of new government employees chasing people down across the province wrapping knuckles. The math doesn’t work.”

Mayor Mark Sager noted that one six-storey project at Clyde and Duchess avenues containing 200 micro-unit studio apartments was approved by council in July 2023 but “the owner of the building has let the building permit lapse.”

Council members added other projects which haven’t moved forward are ones the provincial government itself is supposed to be spearheading.

Coun. Christine Cassidy refused to vote to accept the housing report, saying she’d welcome an opportunity for the province to take a more detailed look at factors affecting construction in West Vancouver. “I’d like them to come and scold us, do their audit report,” she said.

The rest of council voted to accept the report.