Wednesday, October 3, 2018

An affordable housing toolkit, and how it could apply in Langley City

This summer, Langley City council approved our new community vision called “Langley City: Nexus of Community.” Our new community vision calls for an update to both our Official Community Plan and our Zoning Bylaw. The vision notes that there are current deficiencies with our land-use bylaws such as a lack of tools to support affordable housing options that spans the spectrum for people who are just starting off, need a helping hand, just started a family, or are in their retirement years.

Affordable housing in Langley City. Select image to enlarge.

The BC Non-Profit Housing Association recently released a document which outlines some of the tools that are available for municipalities in BC. There are two types of policy tools that municipalities can utilize: ones which can be legally enforced, and ones that can be voluntarily followed by developers. For policies that are voluntary, municipalities can offer incentives like the ability to fast track an application. Time is money, so this can be an effective incentive.

This first list of policy tools only requires the action of a municipality

OFFICIAL PLANS/BYLAWS: Official Community Plans and Zoning Bylaws outline the vision and goals for development in municipal land use and housing needs. Policies can include the protection of existing affordable housing and support for construction of new homes.

PROPERTY TAX: Municipal governments have powers over property taxes. Local governments can waive or reduce property taxes for co-op and non-profit housing providers in order to incentivize construction of new housing, or re-development of existing housing.

LAND CONTRIBUTIONS: Municipalities can sell or lease their land (with a long-term tenure) to co-op and non-profit housing providers at a reduced rate, or contribute the land at no cost, in order to facilitate the construction of new non-market housing.

COMMUNITY LAND TRUSTS: A community land trust acquires and holds land for the benefit of the broader community. Governments should partner with community land trusts to support the development and preservation of affordable homes.

TRANSPORTATION: As the need for more public transportation infrastructure increases, affordable housing near transit is in danger of being replaced with more expensive and less family-friendly housing. Municipalities can implement policies to protect affordable stock near transit and provide incentives for the development of new, affordable, transit-oriented housing.

FEE WAIVERS AND RELIEF There are a variety of municipal costs and fees associated with housing developments that can be waived, including development cost charges, community amenity charges, utility fees and building permit fees. Waiver of these fees can reduce overall building costs.

ZONING FOR RENTAL HOUSING: BC provincial regulations regarding municipal authorities have recently been amended to allow local governments to zone specifically to retain and encourage rental housing in their communities.

The second list of policy tools can be implemented based on density bonusing. Density bonusing allows a municipality to set both a base density for housing within a zone, and if a developer complies with affordable housing requirements, a higher density for housing.

INCLUSIONARY ZONING: Inclusionary zoning requires developers to create some type of non-market housing as a condition for new development sites. Municipalities can ask that a specific number of non-market units be built in a development and/or ask for a contribution to a municipal housing fund.

HOUSING AGREEMENTS: Housing Agreements are a regulatory tool, in the form of a contractual arrangement between local governments and property owners or housing providers that govern the tenure, occupancy, cost and restrictions on non-market housing.

This final list of policy tools can be voluntarily followed by developers, but cannot be legally enforced. As noted early, a municipality could offer incentives like a faster turnaround time for developers who voluntarily follow these policies.

DEMOLITION POLICIES: Demolition and conversion policies protect against demolition of existing affordable housing and replacement with more expensive homes. Polices can be implemented that make this difficult, with significant financial implications to developers who apply for demolition.

REPLACEMENT POLICIES: Replacement policies can establish a ratio of replacement for every affordable or rental unit demolished. Frequently, this is a one-to-one ratio. Municipalities can ensure these ratios are protected within their development and rezoning policies.

Some tools are not applicable to Langley City such as land contributions and community land trusts as the City does not own a significant amount of land that can be redeveloped. Other tools should be combined. For example, rental-only zones should be near high-quality public transit.

Some tools are harder to manage over the long-term for municipalities such as housing agreements which can be difficult to monitor and enforce. A better tool for communities with populations under half a million is to use inclusionary zoning with affordable housing owned and managed by an organization such as the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation.

If I’m re-elected, I will look forward to seeing how we can use some of these tools as we update our land-use bylaws and policies.

No comments: