On the same day we published responses from City of Vancouver mayor and council candidates to our question “What would you have done to close the gap between the City & Kettle-Boffo?“, the Kettle-Boffo project team posted an update on their website Setting the Record Straight to address some of the speculation, conflicting stories and general fallout from their scuttled development application.
We welcome commentary from candidates who have not yet responded; Price Tags will continue to survey City of Vancouver candidates on a variety of topics and issues throughout the summer.
Here are a few more responses we received to our question.
Scott de Lange Boom (Independent)
“I am saddened by the news that the Kettle Boffo project was cancelled. It was a great opportunity for a non-profit, the private sector and the City of Vancouver to come together to get thirty supportive housing units and an expanded Kettle Society center built. Thirty of the most vulnerable people in Vancouver lost their future homes because the City of Vancouver and Kettle Boffo partnership couldn’t work out their differences. As the housing crisis mounts and homelessness increases, getting supportive housing units built and operational is more important than ever. It is a shame that a disagreement over Community Amenity Contributions resulted in losing these needed homes.
The problems that caused Kettle Boffo to fall through are bigger than an individual project. Vancouver needs to reform the Community Amenity Contribution (CAC) system. CACs are supposed to collect the city’s share of the land value increase when a lot is rezoned. However the city’s increasing reliance on CAC revenue combined with how CACs are decided has created more problems than it solves.
The current system has Community Amenity Contributions negotiated behind closed doors between the developers and the city. This system lacks transparency and introduces bad incentives. The city is incentivized to overestimate project value and underestimate existing land values and costs. Builders have the opposite incentive. We may never know what happened. Did the city take into account rising construction costs? Did the builder inflate the value of the housing and non-profit space benefit? Or was there misalignment on any of the other dozens of variables that go into the proforma that is used as the basis for CAC negotiations? The lack of transparency makes answering these question impossible.
If elected, I would replace the negotiated CAC system with flat rate CAC charged on each square foot above the previously allowed density and a system of credits for on site amenities set at a predetermined rate. The city would collect a fair share of the land lift from rezoning and do so in an open and transparent way. No more backroom deals that undermine public confidence, no more surprise demands of extra CACs from the city and no more developers trying to avoid paying the appropriate amenity contributions.
Had this system been in place, everyone would have know exactly what the amenity contribution would be. Countless hours of staff and project manager time would have been saved and the public would know the value of the benefits to be invested into their community.
It is easy to get angry at the real human cost from the loss of thirty supportive homes and expanded Kettle Society space. The stories of the people who would have called this building home are heartbreaking. It is tempting to rush to put in place a one off fix for this project. But we need a systemic fix to ensure that Kettle Boffo and many like it in the future get built and provide the homes many so desperately need.”
Wes Didier, former COPE nominee for council
“The details offered on the development are sparse so it is difficult to know all the contributing factors for this failure. That said the central problem seam to be rezoning and land prices. COPE has proposed streamlining the rezoning process and using zoning process to control speculation. i.e. Zoning the land in such a way that it is clear that the land will not be used for luxury condos.
As it stands I would suggest that the city development branch approach the developer with the following:
- State that the land will not be approved for rezoning to luxury condos.
- Offer to purchase the land based on value when rezoned to affordable housing units.
- Has the city take over as the developer.
- Fund the project by pre-selling selling the 200 proposed units as cooperative housing.
- Have the city cosign or underwrite the mortgage.
- Restrict sales (and resales) to people living and/or working in Vancouver who will live there year round.”
Anne Roberts (COPE)
“Your question assumes the ‘gap’ should be closed and the project proceed. COPE’s position is that government should not look to the development industry to provide public services. The mental health services and supportive housing provided by Kettle shouldn’t depend on a “deal” with a private developer whose main priority is to turn a profit. All levels of government should recognize Kettle’s value and build the new improved facilities required. Instead of enticing private developers with density bonuses and other sweeteners, we need a fair tax system based on ability to pay, such as the Mansion Tax, that will raise enough money for government to provide what most citizens want and need.”