Not too long ago, people from across the country or around the world could come to Vancouver, work hard and build a middle-class life. Generations of families invested in homes that helped them establish secure lives in our city, raise kids, and create strong and vibrant communities.
But today, these kinds of communities are becoming hollowed out. People can’t afford to live in the neighbourhoods where they grew up, making it harder for families to support each other.
It doesn’t need to be this way.
With the average price of a detached home in East Vancouver being $1.4 million, the options are now limited to condos, renting, or more and more often leaving town.
What if we could introduce a new option? What if instead of building just multi-million dollar homes, we could build more small multi-unit homes instead? Imagine if multi-generation families or groups of friends owned homes together, including households that make just $80,000 a year?
Making HOME (Home Options for Middle-income Earners) is a new program that will:
Instead of building one big house that only 2.5 percent of Vancouver residents can afford, Making HOME will allow small-scale, multi-family housing to be built on a standard lot, with a set amount of living area put aside for households making a middle-income.
The house would look like any other house, except it might have four front doors. Three for families that make around $150,000 a year (like two teachers, or an accountant and a tradesperson). And one door reserved for middle-income earners – forever.
On larger lots, there could be up to four market homes available, with two set aside for middle-income earners. Again, guaranteed forever.
Sarah has owned her home for more than 20 years. Her kids have grown up and her home is feeling a bit empty. The neighbourhood is too, because no one’s kids can afford to live where they once grew up.
But Sarah wants to take advantage of Making HOME to change that. She hires a builder to redevelop her one big, empty home into four smaller homes. She keeps one of the units for herself, she sells two of the remaining market homes to a couple of young professionals, and she sells the guaranteed middle-income home to her daughter who makes $80,000 a year.
All of these new neighbours used to rent, but now thanks to Sarah and Making HOME, they can all create a new community and Sarah’s daughter can live really close by!
Devon and his three friends always thought they would have to eventually leave Vancouver to buy a home and raise a family. But now, thanks to Making HOME, they’ve decided to buy a home together and build their own small community.
Together, they all qualify for a joint mortgage so they can buy and redevelop a home together. Devon and Alex are both mid-career and can afford one of the market units. Juan owns his own company and can also buy a market unit. Jennifer is an artist and makes around $80,000 with her partner so they qualify for the middle-income unit. The last unit they sell on the market to a family of new Canadians who never thought they would be able to buy a home in Vancouver.
We need to work on housing as a whole system. People need to be able to move from one type of housing to another as their circumstances change. That’s why Kennedy has been working on getting all kinds of housing built, including over 1,000 modular homes for people experiencing homlessness as well a affordable and market rental units.
If we can create new options for the middle-class, people who are taking up units in the rental market can make way for others. New options help us reduce pressure in the housing market – all while introducing below-market, secure affordable options in the detached home market for the first time ever.
City staff will iron out specific details, but Kennedy’s vision is to make between $80-$120k as a combined household income be the target.
We’re talking about two people making median incomes, like an entry-level tradesperson, or someone who works in a hotel.
That said, if we can get it even closer to the median income of mid-$70,000, that would be ideal.People are leaving Vancouver, so we need to be as aggressive as possible.
Affordability mechanisms can include a covenant on title as outlined under Section 219 of the Land Title Act, which allows a municipality to register a positive or negative covenant against title to property. The covenant “runs with the land” so it can continue in perpetuity.
Other options include a 2nd mortgage on title facilitated by BC Housing through their Housing HUB program, or by a non-profit such as Small Housing BC.
We’ve done projects in the City using these tools, MIRHPP is an example. Other cities like North Vancouver have as well.
100 may sound like a large pilot, but we have almost 70,000 single-detached lots in Vancouver, so we’re talking about 1/10th of 1 percent of what we have now.
This number is small enough to be non-disruptive, while at the same time allowing us enough space to experiment with deeper affordability, different neighbourhood character, different lot sizes, innovative design, and allowing a range of family types and builders the chance to try this out and report back to us.
More data is always better; we want to make sure we get this right and deliver as much affordability to as many people as possible.
There are various mechanisms, the Strata corporation could be in charge of it, or a non-profit like BC Housing or Small Housing BC could be asked to help.
Buyers would be income tested through a review of tax information.
That’s not contemplated now. Kennedy thinks the pilot should be broad, and we can get staff feedback when they come back with their report. But if they think it’s a good idea, I’m all for that.
No. Because the home will have a covenant, or another affordability mechanism, when the owners go to sell, their profit will be capped so that the home is affordable to every future buyer - forever.
No. Because most of the land lift goes right back into building permanently affordable units, there isn’t a profit incentive to build these units. Instead, the incentive is for groups of people wanting to build together because they can’t afford a standard detached house, or seniors who want to age in place.
We are confident staff can design a program that is geared to those folks, and not people looking to make money.
The amendment asks staff to design the pilot to keep that in mind. Kennedy does not want to see renters, many of whom may qualify for these affordable units, be displaced by a program intended to give them more options.
No, this is actually about homeowners choosing to make their own properties more affordable to others from their neighbourhood, their friends and family members.
This is truly an organic program that comes from neighbourhoods.
There are already more than 800 homes demolished every year under current rules. This policy wouldn’t speed this up, it would simply offer new options for some of those 800 lots.
It also carves out restrictions for heritage homes. This isn’t about losing homes; it’s about helping give us all more affordable options.
Add your name if you support making middle-class homeownership a reality again in Vancouver. We will keep you up to date on Kennedy's plans to bring back Making HOME this summer!
Together, we can make Vancouver a city for everyone because it builds homes for everyone.