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Rental housing, rates & related issues


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#1 gumgum

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Posted 21 September 2007 - 07:06 PM

Wasn't sure where else to put this. I couldn't find a rental housing thread.

City eyes incentives for more rental units
Developers who offer affordable housing deserve huge bonus density, Hughes says

Jeff Bell, Times Colonist
Published: Friday, September 21, 2007

Encouraging more rental units downtown should be priority for the city as it drafts a policy that will help govern development in the core, says acting mayor Helen Hughes.

"The vast majority of new condominiums or highrises have no rental in them," Hughes said yesterday, adding the exception is where individual suites are rented out by owners.

With surging downtown growth and predictions for thousands more residents in the core in the next two decades, council is seeking a new format for dealing with "bonus density" -- a tradeoff where developers can build more units into buildings in exchange for public amenities such as art, green space or cash contributions.

Hughes said developers who commit to a certain level of rental accommodation should receive "a huge bonus density." While Victoria is not a resort community, she said, it's comparable to places like Whistler and Banff because all have large numbers of workers in the service industry who need affordable rental units.

Victoria council's formal debate on "bonus density" policy for the downtown area has been put off until next month, but the issue is sure to be a hot topic until then.

How to protect the public interest while ensuring developments remain viable is a balancing act, Coun. Chris Coleman said yesterday to a depleted committee of the whole at Victoria City Hall. Mayor Alan Lowe and councillors Pam Madoff and Bea Holland were all away.

Striking a fair balance is vital "so the public is getting as much out of a project as the developer is," Coleman said.

"We have to serve both sides of the equation."

Such dealings are now done on a case-by-case basis, said Mark Hornell, the city's manager of community planning, whose report to the committee on the density issue was tabled to allow more input from council members and affected groups, such as the Downtown Residents' Association and the Urban Development Institute.

One of the options suggested by the report is establishing set guidelines for added density while bringing in a consultant to determine how much value the new density level creates at a site.

Suitable amenities would then be established.

Hornell told councillors one recent trend is that developers are building far more residential units than office space -- an 18-to-1 ratio. His plan says the density bonus for office use should be equal to that for residential use.

"It's important to try and maintain office competitiveness downtown because certainly from a Regional Growth Strategy perspective and the city's own policy directions, it's essential to maintain downtown as the primary regional employment centre."


© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007


Edit: I suppose it should have been posted in "affordable housing". Sorry 'bout that.

#2 Mike K.

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Posted 22 September 2007 - 10:46 AM

I think this works well in a new thread. Rental housing is not always affordable so a separate thread is fine, IMO.

As for this concept, it's pretty good, but when construction costs $350+ a square foot developers will need some very large incentives to build rental housing. The chance of council and planners loosening their belts to making that happen is slim.

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#3 Dylan Leblanc

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Posted 22 September 2007 - 02:07 PM

There are three houses on Fifth Street beside the Vancouver Island School of Art that are up for rezoning to build an apartment building. The sign on the properties actually says "apartment building" so I hope it isn't a condo.

#4 G-Man

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Posted 22 September 2007 - 03:59 PM

Yup that is an apartment building. It is supported by the local community association but some of the neighbours don't like it. Personally I think it is great Quadra Village needs more density to be a true village.
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#5 aastra

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 11:50 AM

"The vast majority of new condominiums or highrises have no rental in them," Hughes said yesterday, adding the exception is where individual suites are rented out by owners.


Do we know for certain that this is actually the case? In real life, lots of condo units are rented out rather than lived in by the owners. Methinks it's not nearly as exceptional as she believes it to be. Do we have any stats on this?

#6 VicHockeyFan

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 11:53 AM

"The vast majority of new condominiums or highrises have no rental in them," Hughes said yesterday, adding the exception is where individual suites are rented out by owners.


Do we know for certain that this is actually the case? In real life, lots of condo units are rented out rather than lived in by the owners. Methinks it's not nearly as exceptional as she believes it to be. Do we have any stats on this?


My 1996 building is 75% or more rentals. Places like the Metrolpolitan, Manhattan, Chelsea Green are rife with rentals. That may be the fist time in several months I've used the word "rife" in print.
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#7 G-Man

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 01:21 PM

My building is at least half rented. I think that quote is a bit wrong.
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#8 gumgum

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 02:42 PM

Regardless, there still is a rental housing crunch. And recently built condos will only cater to the needs of those higher rate renters.
The only way to address the lack of affordable rental housing is to build more rental apartments. (As well as preserve what already exists.)
There is affordable rental housing out there in the apartments and older condo buildings, but we're still left with a less than 1% vacancy rate.
I think Hughes could be on to something. It would have to be a huge bonus on density though.

#9 Mike K.

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 02:51 PM

Downtowns of any city are more expensive places to rent or to own. There are plenty of affordable rentals in the west comms and in places on the Saan Penn. Even though people may work downtown and may want to live downtown, the market is what it is and we shouldn't expect rental rates to be low in an area with high demand, high land acquisition costs and especially in newly built digs. As for social housing in the downtown core, the average working individual can't afford to live downtown but an individual on social assistance can apply for an apartment in the most desired and most expensive area of town.

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#10 G-Man

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 03:25 PM

Oh I was not saying that this sort of bonus density is a bad idea I think it is great. I do think that those that rent in new buildings will be moving out of older ones so there will be some turn over. I mean if you have ten and then have twenty there is still a net gainin units right? Perhaps we will see the vacancy rate increase as some of the newer condo projects come on the market?
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#11 Holden West

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 04:43 PM

A condo that can be rented for $1200 a month costs $2000 a month to buy.

That's the end of story. Unless the Feds get back into the apartment building subsidizing business I can't see much to solve things.
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#12 G-Man

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 04:46 PM

^ I think that depends on your down payment and interest rate.
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#13 Holden West

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 05:13 PM

You could slap down a massive down payment and you might be able to break even or clear a small profit if you're lucky. Or you could put your down payment money in a conservative mutual fund and make up to 10%.
"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
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#14 davek

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 08:37 PM

If there is a demand for something, and the market doesn't respond with supply, it's a good bet regulation is in the way. If more rental housing is demanded, there's no need to provide further incentive, but rather to remove the disincentive that must certainly exist. Give control over communities back to its owners and residents, ensure they bear the costs and reap the benefits, and I think it likely a great deal more property would become available for rental units.

#15 gumgum

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 08:50 PM

Well the move to legalize secondary suites is certainly a step in the right direction.

#16 Mike K.

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 09:05 PM

Anyone know if legalized suites result in higher rental rates over the long term?

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#17 Dylan Leblanc

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Posted 24 September 2007 - 05:08 AM

Davek's reasoning is very true. If there's something I've learned in my travels, it's that most of the problems in our society are there because the government actually wants them. You see government doesn't really work for the people. Sure they'll let you think that so that you give your power to them, but the hidden hands behind control of government have their own nefarious agenda they are working on, and have structured our society for hundreds of years just as they want it to be. So don't expect government to solve any housing crisis. All they'll do is give a token jesture if you scream and complain at them. There are solutions to our problems, but let's come up with them on our own and not put our faith in any government.

Edit: woot! post # 666!

#18 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 10:06 AM

Letter in today's T-C that explains how tax structure changes have crippled the construction of rental housing:

Tax structure explains rental shortages
Times Colonist
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2007

There are good reasons for the lack of rental units throughout Canada. The present stock was mainly built in the 1960s and 1970s when it was beneficial for high-income taxpayers to take advantage of the capital cost allowance (depreciation) available to create notional losses.

These tax losses were then all legally offset against other income, thereby reducing taxes. The federal government, not wishing to see taxes deferred, cancelled the offset. This stopped rental building. Those owners then converted many of the buildings to condos.

Investors and developers need an economic base to build. In today's conditions, higher land prices and building costs make benefits difficult to realize. It is better to build to sell while there is a demand, than try to meet the much lower returns from rentals.

Pushing builders to include rental and owner-occupied units in the same development might not work well for either group. It is the governments who need to set up the conditions to encourage rental building.

Edwin G. Woollard,

Victoria.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007
http://www.canada.co... ... 31eada4fc3


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#19 VicHockeyFan

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 10:38 AM

Davek's reasoning is very true. If there's something I've learned in my travels, it's that most of the problems in our society are there because the government actually wants them. You see government doesn't really work for the people. Sure they'll let you think that so that you give your power to them, but the hidden hands behind control of government have their own nefarious agenda they are working on, and have structured our society for hundreds of years just as they want it to be. So don't expect government to solve any housing crisis. All they'll do is give a token jesture if you scream and complain at them. There are solutions to our problems, but let's come up with them on our own and not put our faith in any government.

Edit: woot! post # 666!


Why do we need government to solve this "crisis"? Why not just let market forces dictate rental supply? ie. if the average rental price for a two-bedroom apartment was $2200 per month, a LOT of builders would build rentals. Supply and demand, folks, it always works out. The "crisis" is of our own making. We have decided that as a society, we would like to live in homes that require 40% of our take-home pay to finance. So be it.

I don't see a crisis. I don't believe a single person is living on the streets because of the cost/availability of rental housing. The don't call it a crisis in downtown Manhattan because it costs $3000 for a studio suite. Anyone that can't afford that can move to New Jersey. Same deal here. Move to Saskatchewan if you want affordable housing. What? You can't work here and live there? Then get a better job or ask for a raise. Or move and find a new job elsewhere.
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#20 gumgum

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 11:09 AM



James Bay tenants fired up over Ontario landlord
Beefs include lack of heat, poor security, rats in garbage room, and an out-of-service pool

Rob Shaw, Times Colonist
Published: Sunday, November 25, 2007


For months, the only way Jean White could get warm in her Victoria apartment was to curl under the covers of her bed and turn on her electric heating blanket.

The unreliable boilers in her James Bay apartment building had left the 90-year-old facing cold winter days with little to no heat. "I've had two colds since August," she said. "You put the heating on in the morning and it doesn't do anything. To tell you the truth, I stay in bed and put my electric blanket on."

Heat has been just one of the complaints from people who live and do business in James Bay Square, a prominent 177-unit apartment building at Menzies and Simcoe streets.

They say TransGlobe Property Management, the Mississauga, Ont.-based company that owns the building along with numerous others in the city, has been slow to complete crucial repairs and isn't listening to its tenants as they increasingly complain about everything from robberies to brown water and accumulated garbage.

Depending on who you ask, the heat has been broken for weeks or months. After CHEK News ran a story on the problem two weeks ago, Transglobe pledged to fix it by last Friday. White said she's noticed an improvement, but wonders why it took so long.

TransGlobe became one of Victoria's biggest landlords last year when it started buying rental buildings throughout B.C. The company has more than 1,000 rental units in the city and pledged to double that number by 2010.

"The level of service is kind of hit and miss and the default position is pass the buck and don't take responsibility if you don't have to," said Gail Nestel, a tenant in James Bay Square for the past three years.

"I think they are into real-estate acquisition and not management. They have so many buildings -- how can you manage them effectively? It speaks to real-estate monopoly. It's a bigger issue."

Nestel said she spent $1,000 to stay in a hotel room for days last summer after TransGlobe ripped open her bedroom wall for repairs that were ultimately unnecessary. After she complained for a year, she said they reimbursed her with a $300 TransGlobe credit.

The company was also publicly criticized earlier this year after numerous vehicle break-ins at the underground parkade. In response, it hired security staff that has since been dismissed.

Tenants also complain the garbage room is frequently full of waste and rats, and the pool has been in and out of service for more than a year.

The company sent a letter to residents Thursday asking them to lock their apartments, after some tenants reported people wandering the halls late at night, trying doors and robbing unlocked suites.

Calls made to TransGlobe's offices in Victoria and Mississauga were not returned. A spokesperson in Vancouver declined an interview. Instead, the company sent a fax to the Times Colonist addressing only the heat issue.

"The repairs have been underway for some time but it has been challenging to source parts and skilled trades people to complete the upgrade," the statement read. "Those issues have been resolved and the work is now progressing well."

Transglobe bought James Bay Square last July, calling the building its flagship property in Western Canada. It has since renovated the lobby, replaced hallway carpet, painted the exterior and rebuilt a rooftop common area.

The building is also home to businesses such as Thrifty Foods, Starbucks and TransGlobe's Victoria headquarters. Some businesses are also unhappy with the new owners.

"They are flipping useless for everybody," said Andrew Moffatt, a co-owner of the Heron Rock Bistro. "They put off a front that they have great customer service, and they don't."

Heron Rock Bistro hired lawyers to deal with TransGlobe after the company shut down the building's public washrooms and people began walking through the restaurant dining room to use the Heron Rock facilities, said Moffatt.

The public washrooms, which are often used by homeless people and drug addicts according to other businesses, have since re-opened.

But at least one business thinks things have improved under TransGlobe. Louis She, who has run James Bay Quality Cleaners in the building since 1988, said TransGlobe has worked to improve what it can.

"It's better than the previous owner -- they didn't care," he said. "At least [Transglobe] is putting money in to soup up everything."

rfshaw@tc.canwest.com


© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007



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