Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Langley City Council Approves Beefed Up Compensation and Relocation Policy for Tenants in Purpose-Built Rental Buildings Subject to Redevelopment

Rental Building in Langley City

Since I can remember, Langley City has had a policy to ensure that the number of purpose-built rental housing units in our city never decreases; in fact, the number of purpose-built rental units has increased over the years. If a purpose-built rental building is ever redeveloped, the number of rental units must be replaced one-for-one.

While this policy was in place for decades, the first significant redevelopment project of a purpose-built apartment building occurred with the Centreville Apartment at 20785 Fraser Highway in 2021. At the time, Langley City Council and staff acted quickly to implement an interim tenant relocation policy that required assisting tenants in relocating to another purpose-built rental home in Langley City, Township, or Surrey and provided a small amount of compensation above and beyond the provincial requirements.

At the time, Council acknowledged that we needed to enhance this policy to increase compensation and provide additional support for tenants in finding new homes. We adopted an enhanced policy in 2022, which you can read in a previous blog post. This policy was in place when Council received our next major redevelopment application for a purpose-built rental building, Pyramid Apartments, at 5360 -204th Street.

Based on the experience of the Pyramid Apartment project and the fact that rents have gone sky-high, Council asked Langley City staff to develop a significantly more robust policy that would maximize compensation, relocation support, and the ability to return to the new building at a below-market rental rate while still making redevelopment projects viable. The City hired a land economist to help us develop this policy.

This first change was an increase in compensation as follows:

Up to 5 years tenancy: 2 months of current rent -> 4 months of current rent
6 to 10 years tenancy: 3 months of current rent -> 8 months of current rent
11 to 15 years tenancy: 4 months of current rent -> 12 months of current rent
16-20 years tenancy: 5 months of current rent -> 14 months of current rent
Over 20 years tenancy: 6 months of current rent -> 16 months of current rent

As with our previous policy, we defined a “vulnerable” tenant. “Vulnerable” tenants qualify for additional support. We broadened who qualifies for additional support to people who have one or more of the following attributes:

  • Are seniors aged 55 or older
  • Have a recognized disability pension or are considered disabled for income tax purposes
  • Qualify for deep subsidy or Rent Geared to Income (RGI) Units, according to BC Housing eligibility criteria
  • Are currently paying monthly rent that is equivalent to or less than average monthly rents for RGI units in the City

If a “vulnerable” tenant is relocated to non-market priced rental housing, their updated compensation is as follows:

Up to 5 years tenancy: 4 months of current rent -> 12 months of current rent
6 to 10 years tenancy: 4 months of current rent -> 12 months of current rent
11 to 15 years tenancy: 4 months of current rent -> 14 months of current rent
16-20 years tenancy: 5 months of current rent -> 15 months of current rent
Over 20 years tenancy: 6 months of current rent -> 16 months of current rent

If a “vulnerable” tenant is relocated to market-priced rental housing, they automatically get 16 months of rent as compensation, no matter what.

The updated policy also increased moving expense compensation.

When a building is redeveloped and its replacement building opens, tenants have the right to return at 20% below the current market rent.

Finally, the policy has been enhanced to require developers to find a home for tenants who are being relocated with rents at or less than CMHC’s average rent in the City, suitable for the tenant’s needs, and with the same number of bedrooms as the tenant’s current unit. For “vulnerable” tenants, the relocation support goes further, requiring a developer to find non-market, subsidized units.

I encourage you to read the full updated policy. We must take care of people in our community, and this updated policy further supports people who may find themselves in a purpose-built rental building undergoing redevelopment. Updating this policy was a key priority for Council, and I’m happy it was adopted last night.

Monday, July 22, 2024

Provincial Transit Housing Areas: More Apartments North of the Fraser River

The Metro Vancouver Regional District recently created a model that shows the probability of where people could build additional apartments (both low-rise and high-rise) as a result of new provincial housing legislation and regulations that set minimum densities around SkyTrain Stations, Bus Exchanges, and West Coast Express Stations.

This model shows additional apartment buildings; for example, you'll see on the maps that there is no change in Langley City, as our Official Community Plan was already basically consistent with the new provincial rules.

Probability of additional densification: High-rise apartments

Probability of additional densification: Low-rise apartments

The red areas are where more apartments are most likely to be built, the yellow areas are medium, and the green areas are less likely.

Metro Vancouver staff make a few observations. The first is that these changes will not impact population growth, which is good. The second is that it will focus more housing along transit corridors.

My observation is that it may focus more housing growth back north of the Fraser River. My second observation is that we will need a well-funded transit system to support increasing the amount of housing near transit, which isn't the case right now.

Thursday, July 18, 2024

A Proposed $44.4 Million in Regional Parks Projects for 2025

While Metro Vancouver Regional Parks have always been popular destinations, even more people discovered these parks during the height of the pandemic. These parks continue to be extremely popular.

About a week ago, the Regional Park Committee reviewed the draft Regional Park 2025 – 2029 Capital Project Plan. The Regional District plans to invest $44.4 million into the regional parks system in 2025.

About half of that funding, $20 million, will be used to purchase land to grow the regional parks system. Over the years, the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board has been increasing the money spent on acquiring new parkland, which is included in people's property tax bills. I think this is a wise investment.

The following map shows some of the new parks and greenways the Regional District is developing, including two new regional parks in the Township of Langley.

A map of new parks and planned future parks and greenway enhancements. Select the map to enlarge.

The remaining funding will be used to enhance parks and greenways, as shown in the following map.

2025 Proposed Metro Vancouver Regional Parks Projects. Select the map to enlarge.

While I'm a fan of regional parks, many of them, such as Campbell Valley Regional Park, are only practically accessible via automobile. While not a capital project, the Regional District has introduced a shuttle bus service to some parks during peak periods. The Regional District does have some greenways which they fund. I would love to one day see a regionally funded greenway that allows people who take SkyTrain to Langley City to bike safely to Campbell Valley Regional Park.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Organics, Paper, and Plastic Still Not Being Recycling in Townhouse and Apartment Complexes

The Metro Vancouver Regional District conducts annual studies to determine what people put in their garbage. I've posted about these studies on the blog over the years. These studies aim to help inform our region's waste diversion programs, such as green bins, blue bins, and depot recycling programs.

Like most people in Metro Vancouver, I live in attached housing (also known as multifamily housing.) Attached housing has lower waste diversion rates than detached housing (also known as single-family housing.)

From my experience, one reason for the lower diversion rate is that common garbage/recycling/green rooms in most apartment buildings and townhouse complexes make it easier to "cheat." For example, some people consistently threw recyclable materials into the garbage bin in my previous apartment complex. The waste hauler would empty the big garage bin every week, regardless of whether it had banned materials. In my former strata, we spent a lot of time educating people on how recycling, green bins, and garbage worked, and we did see success. Of course, this was only because a few of us on the strata council were passionate about reducing garbage.

I now live in a townhouse, and each unit has its own pickup, just like detached housing. However, I have noticed that the waste haulers are more picky and won't take garbage bins with recyclable or green material in them.

So this is easier said than done, but the Regional District should increase ongoing education about waste collection for people living in attached housing. Another key would be to work with waste haulers to improve their enforcement/fines for strata and rental property owners who consistently put banned material in the garbage bins. Increasing education and enforcement at the source would go a long way to increasing waste diversion.

Compostable organics, plastic, and paper were the top materials in attached housing garbage bins in 2023, as shown in the following chart.

Overall Garbage Composition by Primary Category. Select chart to enlarge.

These are all super easy to recycle or put in a green bin. You can learn more by reading the full 2023 report.