In 2017, Metro Vancouver and several partners completed a study to expand the region's understanding of the constraints and opportunities related to building new rental housing in transit-oriented locations across the region.
The study partners include the BC Non Profit Housing Association, BC Housing, TransLink, Vancity, and Metro Vancouver. Though not a study partner, the Real Estate Foundation of BC provided a grant to support a portion of the study.
- Demand for rental housing, particularly housing affordable* to households earning less than $50,000 per year, is not being met across the region.
- Renter households, especially those with lower incomes, are more likely to use transit. Increased ridership means a higher return on investment in transportation. Access to frequent transit reduces transportation costs and improves access to services and employment.
- The primary reason new affordable housing is undersupplied is because the rents generated do not cover the costs of development (land and construction). The challenges are amplified in transit-oriented locations, where higher density expectations increase land costs.
- There are innovative ways to approach land and construction costs, but even with these it remains very challenging to make new affordable rental housing financially viable.
- Initiatives in other jurisdictions may be worth exploring in the Metro Vancouver region to generate new affordable rental housing near frequent transit.
* Generally, 'affordable housing' is defined as housing that costs less than 30% of a household's pre-tax income. For households earning less than $50,000 (lower income), the equivalent monthly rent is $1,300. Since the completion of Phase 1, the income cut-off for lower income households has been updated to $60,000 using the latest 2016 Census information. The equivalent monthly rent is $1,500.
Study Activity Reports
Activity 1 – Review current and innovative practices used in North America (Canada and the U.S.A.) that encourage new affordable rental housing near transit. The report also projects a regional rental housing supply gap.
Activity 2 – Investigate whether rental or ownership tenure, and income level, relate to transit ridership.
Activity 3 – Develop an inventory of lands under public or non-profit ownership in transit-oriented locations. This activity is in progress, with completion expected in 2019.
Activity 4 - Explore the financial challenges to developing rental housing, and specifically affordable rental housing, in transit-oriented locations, and identify financial and policy tools available to narrow the affordability gap.