COVID Place making
April 7, 2020

Are Seniors’ Retirement Homes Toast in the Post-Covid World?

There will be lots of changes in the Post Covid world~one that can be predicted immediately is the change in how people will perceive Senior Citizen Care Homes. There’s been lots of  marketing for these facilities which have  multiple units with a shared dining room, group activities and excursions.

What the Covid Crisis revealed is that in a case of a pandemic, care home residents are locked in, away from families and trips out. If non-verbal these residents have no way to communicate with family.  There has been stories of couples married for a half century trying to communicate through an exterior glass window. There has also been video  of a daughter playing a trumpet  below her Dad’s closed care home window in Vancouver’s west end. Her father has sadly now  passed away from the Covid virus.

During this current Covid pandemic, the virus is in over 600 seniors’ care homes in Ontario. In that province there is advice for families to take their loved ones out of these care homes during this outbreak. 

More than 80 percent of deaths in Ontario have been at seniors’ care homes.

Senior Citizens’ residences have previously been  seen as a good financial investment. In a recent survey,19 percent of investors said they had  seniors’ care housing in their portfolio. It had been touted as a low risk investment with high returns as the baby boomers are  perceived as driving demand, with nearly 80 million seniors in the USA  by 2035.

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In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department,  AirBnB actually is approaching the Canadian government  for “tax breaks”. As you can well imagine, there’s a lot of cancelled reservations for short term accommodation because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

I have previously written about AirBnB which rents furnished units in places all around the world. Four years ago Iain Majoribanks was studying the impact of AirBnB on the Vancouver rental market while at the University of British Columbia.

He found that  Airbnb has a centralized control of all listings and charges a 9 to 15 per cent service fee on all bookings. The company conceals the location and identity of the hosts offering rooms, making enforcement challenging for municipalities. He surmises that 99.3 per cent of all Airbnb Vancouver stays are less than 30 days.

Now the City of Vancouver has new regulations for short-term rentals but it still appears that some “hosts” are renting out different units, despite the fact that Vancouver by-laws allow short-term renting of only your main house.

 Jen St. Denis reports for CTV News   that  Airbnb Canada has “asked the federal government for a series of tax breaks to help short-term rental hosts make up lost income from cancelled bookings during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Of course one of the things these rental hosts could do immediately is rent long-term to local residents. As The Guardian’s Rupert Neate writes, in Great Britain “landlords have flooded the rental market with their Airbnb flats…The number of new rentals Property portal Rightmove has on the market in the week the UK lockdown started increased by 45% in London, up 55% in Brighton, 62% in Edinburgh and 78% in Bath. It’s a similar story the world over with a 61% increase in Dublin and 41% in Prague.”

Meanwhile back in Canada hoping to keep AirBnB hosts mastering the short stay instead of providing month to month rentals,  AirBnB trotted a four page letter to the federal government. That letter asked for GST/HST business expense credits for hosts, income tax reductions, short-term loans or mortgage deferrals, requested that hosts  get Employment Insurance benefits  and  federal tax deferral. If that was not enough of an ask, AirBnB asked for a government paid tourist initiative to reboot the short-term stay business.

It seems a little odd when all these AirBnB owners need to do is rent their extra space out to longer term tenants. And the Duke of Data, Simon Fraser University’s City Program Director Andy Yan said it best:

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I received an advanced copy of “Planning on the Edge” which provides a reconciliation, social justice and sustainable development lens on the complex issues surrounding Metro Vancouver regional planning.  It’s a thoughtful and well documented book with chapters contributed by many well known urban thinkers.

There’s food and a panel with UBC’s Leonora Angeles, Bill Rees, Howard Grant from the Musqueam First Nation and Simon Fraser University’s Duke of Data Andy Yan.

Host of the CBC program “B.C. Today” Michelle Eliott is the moderator.

This event is expected to reach capacity quickly. The tickets are free~please follow this link to RSVP .

When February 27th, 2020  5:30 PM   through   9:00 PM Location UBC Robson Square, 800 Robson Street
Room C300
Vancouver, BC
Canada Contact Phone: 604-822-3276
Email: sherli@mail.ubc.ca Read more »

Gord Price will be in Australia for the next month, Instagramming and podcasting his way across the country.  Follow his coverage here and on Instagram (gordonpriceyvr), as well as PriceTalks podcast when interviews are occasionally posted.

Evidence from the Sydney Morning Herald on how deeply unserious some decision-makers can be after they approve motions and plans to respond to a housing crisis.

Slowdown in pace of housing developments unevenly spread across Sydney

Amid concerns about the scale of development, the government’s latest forecast shows 5700 fewer homes are set to be built over the next five years than was predicted two years ago. …

New dwellings at Ryde are forecast to fall by 10 per cent to 8550 over the next five years, compared with that forecast two years ago. The pullback comes after campaigning by Liberal Minister Victor Dominello against the scale of development in his electorate.

“I’m not against development – I’m against over development,” he said.

“If you start multiple villas and multiple terraces in suburbia, where are they going to park on streets? …”

The forecasts show 10 times as many homes are expected to be built at Blacktown (lower socioeconomic-economic status) over the next five years than the northern beaches (higher).

The 1950 new dwellings predicted for the northern beaches represent a 26 per cent fall on the government’s target for the area in 2017. In contrast, Liverpool in the south-west is forecast to have 12,750 dwellings built over the next five years, a 72 per cent rise on that predicted two years ago. …

Bill Randolph, the director of the University of NSW’s City Futures, said the change in forecasts for new homes likely reflected a slowdown in the apartment market, adding that it would still be a “big ask” to deliver about 41,000 dwellings annually in Sydney over the next five years.

Professor Randolph said a reduction in large industrial sites meant it would become harder to develop high-density areas in inner and middle suburbs of Sydney.

“It’s getting harder now to win the local political battle in getting urban renewal through now that we are running out of the big old industrial sites,” he said.

 

 

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Stats-and-numbers guy Andy Coupland does a backgrounder on The Grand Bargain and what Vancouverites (City and Metro) should know about this town.

Here’s the first post in the Andy Coupland Primer. Here’s the second. The third.  And now the fourth and final:

Random Acts of Density

Can the city or the region build itself out of the current ‘housing crisis’? The proportion of rental households actually went up in Vancouver between the 2011 and 2016 censuses (and in the rest of Metro too, although with a lower overall proportion renting). The past five years have seen over 33,000 starts in the city – the past four years have seen over 28,000.

But for the city to achieve an average 8,500 new units a year (the target the mayor has mentioned) would mean moving away from the caution we generally see.* Perhaps it won’t be as difficult as it seems. It was a bit surprising that there wasn’t pushback when Wall built a huge complex on Boundary Road, quite a way from the SkyTrain. That was the most extreme example (in Vancouver) of a street of modest houses replaced by over 1,000 condos in 32 floor buildings.

The take-up of the Cambie Plan also shows a different approach – not so much the six-storey buildings along Cambie already mentioned but the more recent additions. The City now has a method to fast-track rezoning for 1.4 FSR townhouses. One existing house can become six or even eight units, half of them 3-bed family-sized. There are already 32 projects as current rezonings – all but two approved in the past year. There are nine other sites already at Development Permit stage, and they represent 341 townhouses – which for Vancouver is a huge change.  The same sort of thing is happening in Marpole and Grandview Woodland, as those plans took the same forms and density.

That will be another way in which Vancouver will continue to grow in ways other municipalities don’t, because there’s actually a lot of change happening in some of Vancouver’s single-family neighbourhoods, which really isn’t the case in other municipalities. It would be interesting to know who is buying them. The family homes generally cost well over $1 million each – so more affordable than most existing Vancouver houses, but still a pretty steep haul to finance as a young couple.

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CBC’s The Current is Doing  a Broadcast on the Future of Chinatown Monday February 10.

Join Matt Galloway for a special show in Vancouver on Chinatown’s Future.

Matt Galloway is the host of CBC Radio’s The Current. (CBC)

Why a  forum all about the future of the city’s Chinatown?

It’s a part of the city that’s changing rapidly, and faces challenges from all sides. There are fewer visitors, growing pressures to develop, and long-established stores closing up.

Is it time to re-think the future of this once vibrant neighbourhood?

Join Galloway for a special taping of The Current: Vancouver’s Changing Chinatown.

Stay after the event for a chance to meet him.

Get your free tickets from Eventbrite by clicking this link.

Additional Information

Doors open: 6:30 p.m.

Taping: 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

Location: Floata Seafood Restaurant, 180 Keefer St., Vancouver, BC V6A 1X4

All seats are first come, first served. There will also be a rush line at the event should tickets sell out.

Please contact the organizer at cbcradioevents@cbc.ca with any questions.

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Transparency is such an important quality and nothing is as vital when developers move existing established rental tenants out of buildings that they are refurbishing or redeveloping. The language of the Residential Tenancy Regulation indicates that

“The landlord may end the tenancy only for the reasons and only in the manner set out in the Residential Tenancy Act and the landlord must use the approved notice to end a tenancy form available from the Residential Tenancy office. The landlord and tenant may mutually agree in writing to end this tenancy agreement at any time.”

As Jen St. Den writes in BCTV News when Reliance Properties moved the tenants out of the twelve unit rental building at 1188 Bidwell Street and redeveloped a  20 storey 108 unit apartment building on the site, those existing tenants that wanted to stay thought they could return to that building at their old agreed upon rents and signed an agreement to vacate the old building. Their assumption was that after a two year time period that had been agreed to by the developer and the City, that rent increases for those returning tenants would only be the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for British Columbia, as stated in the Residential Tenancy Regulation.

Wrong.

Instead Reliance Properties trotted out “new” leases that brought the returning tenants’ rents up to “market rental levels” of   $2,350 a month for a one bedroom, and then offered those returning tenants a “rebate” to their old pre-development rent for two years. After that, the rent mushroomed up to the “new” rent, plus the percentage annual  increase in the CPI.

You can take a look at the agreement entered into between Reliance Properties and the City of Vancouver regarding the return of the existing tenants to the newly developed 1188 Bidwell that resulted in this ambiguity. This was approved by the Development Permit Board. It  states:

“That returning Eligible Tenants will be entitled to rent with a discount of 20% off starting rents. That discounted Starting Rents are applicable only to Eligible Tenants who exercise their right of first refusal and occupy a unit in the new development.”

Now there is a case of who said what, and exactly what a “starting rent” would be. There is  finger pointing from the City to the developer over the lack of clarity over correct lease execution,where it appears that the City’s intent was to allow the few returning tenants back in the building at their “old” rents, subject to annual adjustment.

In the end, it is the tenant who is left holding the bag, without enough disposable income  to continue living in the building. Those tenants feel bamboozled, and Reliance Properties whose website states “The company focuses on developing long-term tenant relationships and today, many Reliance tenants have been with the firm for over thirty years”  has developed a horrifying precedent. Clearly the City will need to spell out exact terms in future redevelopments.

 

There’s still time for Reliance to do the right thing and give this small handful of tenants the understood rent that they and the City believed was negotiated.

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(Click on headline above for illustrations.)


We asked stats-and-numbers guy Andy Coupland to do a background on The Grand Bargain and what Vancouverites (City and Metro) should know about this town, especially if they are going to weigh in on the housing crisis and to participate in the City-Wide Plan. 

Here’s the first post in the Andy Coupland Primer.  And now the second:

 

WHO GROWS WHERE

If you lived your life only shuttling up and down the rapid-transit system, you’d be convinced that all the growth is happening in the suburbs – or at least some of the suburbs – far more than in the City of Vancouver. Just look at the apparent density, and certainly the height, bulk and prominence of some of the transit-oriented clusters in Burnaby at Brentwood and Metrotown, and in Surrey at King George. Even in Richmond (where the height limitation means less density), the number of projects stretches to the skyline. Each of these would seem far greater than the few towers here and there in Vancouver.

So appearances can be deceptive.  A lot of lower density developments and a series of Random Acts of Density can generate more new homes than a few clusters of very obvious towers.

In fact, Vancouver is developing clusters of new towers as well. Nearly 1,000 of those 33,300 housing starts over five years in the City of Vancouver are on Davie Street, near Denman, (right) where there are five new rental buildings under construction.  Because they’re being developed in the context of other older towers, and because they are (by today’s standards) being built to modest heights, they don’t really stand out.

There’s a similar set of towers coming on Robson Street. They’re almost invisible when compared to the very prominent Vancouver House by Granville Bridge, but overall the three towers under construction add over 400 units, half of them rentals – nearly as many as Vancouver House in total, and more of them rental.

Many of Vancouver’s new homes are even more invisible. To the annoyance of some commentators, the Cambie Corridor Plan initial phase was cautious. The plan allowed six-storey buildings along Cambie and four storeys on adjacent parts of King Edward, for example. The heights were limited because the sites all held single-family homes – often 1950s ranchers. There was a recognition that, one, not every house would sell, and secondly, across the lane the zoning wasn’t going to necessarily change, so ‘fitting in’ was important.

The Grand Bargain was still in play – but in this case it was houses that were going to be torn down up and down Cambie and replaced with apartments. Without taking into account the higher numbers and densities on the big sites like Oakridge, Pearson and Langara Gardens, there have already been over 6,000 units associated with the Cambie Plan. There are 16 tower cranes along Cambie today.

Those who lament that the densities are far too low for a transit corridor forget the huge backlash against the plan, and the parade of residents who objected to the earliest projects when they came to Council for rezoning.

Even less visible are the suites and laneway houses. Over 500 laneway homes get added every year, all rental, and all modestly sized. More rebuilt homes these days have a suite than don’t, but it’s not that far back in time that there was no way of adding a suite – or legalizing one that had mysteriously appeared underneath a home. Now, providing there’s a lane, almost every plot in RS zoning can have three homes – two of which can’t be sold off, only offered for rent. It has been argued that one unintended consequence is that house prices have been maintained higher thanks to the presence of two ‘mortgage helpers’.

This situation doesn’t apply in most of the rest of Metro Vancouver, and it might explain why the numbers of new units in Vancouver is so much higher. Of the 33,000 starts over five years in Vancouver, less than 7,000 are single detached or semi detached, (many one-for-one replacements) and that includes over 2,500 laneway homes.

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Andy Coupland was the go-to guy for stats and data at Vancouver City Hall – and who periodically visits Price Tags with comments and corrections.  With John Atkin, he’s been giving us great insights on our past in Changing Vancouver, and on our present in Changing City Updates.

We asked Andy to do a background to The Grand Bargain and what Vancouverites (City and Metro) should know about this town, especially if they are going to weigh in on the housing crisis and to participate in the City-Wide Plan. 

So here’s the first post in an Andy Coupland Primer:

 

THE NUMBERS

Metro Vancouver isn’t growing any bigger geographically.  But every year its population grows by an average of over 30,000.  So in the past 30 years, over a million extra people have been added, to reach the current population of around 2.5 million.

The City of Vancouver has grown too – 200,000 more people in the same 30-year period.

Some ask: does the City of Vancouver need to add any more people? Others are outraged that the City limits development anywhere.

A reasonable approach fits into the middle somewhere: we can’t or shouldn’t pull up the drawbridge, but there has to be a managed growth that doesn’t encourage Random Acts of Density in locations where services are inadequate.

 

Within the 2,870 square kilometers of the region, two thirds is effectively off-limits for development.*

That means that effectively there are only 837 square kilometers of land where development can occur (29% of the total Metro area). Within this relatively limited area, less than 10% is ‘green field’ land.

The result: in all the region, only 78 square kilometres have never been developed – an area somewhat smaller than the City of Vancouver.

The City of Vancouver has only has five percent of the region’s total land area – just 116 sq. km. Because very little of the city is off-limits for development, it has just under 12 percent of the region’s developable area.

By the 1990s almost everywhere in the City of Vancouver had already been built on.  In a few spots in downtown, the buildings being constructed today are the fifth on the site, despite the city’s relatively short history.

Nonetheless, the City of Vancouver added on average around 5,600 people a year between 2011 and 2016** despite having almost all the developable land already built out and the highest population density of all the region’s municipalities.

Yet in the same time period, the city also saw an average of 5,500 new homes added every year. At first, that just sounds wrong – almost a new home for every new resident? There are several reasons.

The 5,500 is not net growth – about a thousand homes a year are demolished and almost always replaced by other ones. So only 4,500 additional homes are added each year. But not all of those were occupied with new residents – at least, not in 2016. Some had ‘non-permanent’ residents – students studying here; temporary foreign workers. Some were used as pied-a-terre; some were second homes, some business-owned.  Some are occupied by suburban parents to use a couple of times a week when commuting home was inconvenient. A few were owned by wealthy foreigners with multiple homes around the globe. Some were on AirBnB. Some were vacant, awaiting sale or recently completed.  A few were bought purely as an inflating investment, with rising value offsetting taxes and strata fees.

Conclusion: in five years there were just over 3,000 more dwellings in the city not occupied by usual residents.

It’s not a huge number, but in a city with very low vacant rental rate and a serious affordability problem, it was considered to be a problem worth trying to tackle. So the City of Vancouver, and then the Province (and soon the Federal Government) are taxing homes that aren’t occupied either by the owner or a tenant. Non-residents pay higher taxes. AirBnB (and similar platforms) are being pursued; the rules about how much of a home can be offered as a vacation rental, and for how long, have been tightened up and are being applied.

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At Vancouver City Hall, December 18:

Vancouver council approved a contentious rezoning application to build a five-storey rental building at Larch and West Second Avenue in an 8-3 vote Dec. 18. after a public hearing that attracted dozens of speakers, for and against. …   The Larch street building will produce 63 rental units — 13 for moderate income households.

Some neighbouring residents, who formed Kits Neighbourhood Group, campaigned against the Larch Street project, arguing it didn’t fit neighbourhood character, the building is too high, dense and bulky, and not enough affordable units are being provided to justify the incentives being offered to the developer.

Imagine trying to approve hundreds of these ‘missing-middle’ developments one by one – or even through a mass rezoning to allow them anywhere.  Imagine a ‘Kits Neighbourhood Group’ city-wide (as Colleen Hardwick undoubtedly will).

 

Meanwhile, at Surrey City Hall, December 16:

Alison Brooks Architects has won approval for a residential-led scheme in Vancouver, Canada, featuring a series of towers, the tallest a 38-storey skyscraper …

The project for Rize Alliance Properties will create 1,126 homes on the site in the burgeoning City of Surrey (City Centre) …

It was waved through at a City of Surrey Public Hearing …

 

Do the math: 63 versus 1,126.  Do the political calculation: one project tries to nibble away at The Grand Bargain, the other reinforces its expediency.

What are the odds that the City of Vancouver will provide enough housing of any kind, incentivized or not, to make a substantial difference in the housing crisis?

 

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