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VAHA issues RFP for affordable housing projects

Russell Hixson
VAHA issues RFP for affordable housing projects

The Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA) has started a new project to find solutions for Vancouver’s affordable housing crisis.

The agency is seeking private investment to develop land allocated by the city and has released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop close to 900 units of permanent, affordable rental housing on seven city-owned sites, worth approximately $79 million.

The VAHA will lease the land to partners to build, fund and operate.

"It’s difficult for anyone to find land in the city so this is a great opportunity to have a lot of scale in the city," said Luke Harrison, CEO of the VAHA.

With rental vacancy rates at 0.8 per cent, one of the lowest in the country, finding housing is getting more and more difficult. The various sites were allocated to the VAHA by city council to enable the development of new affordable rental housing.

According to the city, the developments are designed to offer a mix of housing to meet the needs of singles, families and seniors earning low to moderate incomes. Rental rates for all units will target below market rates.

The VAHA also wants the RFP to be approached holistically.

"We have created this so that the best proposals will look at the entire package or a grouping of sites," said Harrison. "We are to create a portfolio effect."

The RFP will be open for two months.

"Finding secure, affordable rental housing in Vancouver is a big challenge, particularly for people with low to middle incomes," said Mayor Gregor Robertson in a release.

"City Hall continues to explore every opportunity to build new affordable housing, and developing 900 new homes on city land for renter households earning under $80,000 is another step we’re taking to deliver housing for people who live and work in Vancouver.

"Offering city land for development keeps housing costs down for renters, and with investments from the BC and federal governments, we can make these 900 new homes even more affordable."

The exact number of units that will be delivered on each site is subject to development approval through rezoning, where necessary, and the development permit process.

Final confirmation of development partners and estimated projected timelines for completion of the seven sites will be announced in the first half of 2018. As part of the rezoning and development permit process, the VAHA and the city will undertake community consultation for the sites.

The sites include 1190 Burrard St. and 937 Davie St. which will feature approximately 118 units of new affordable rental housing and a new purpose-built facility for QMUNITY, British Columbia’s queer, trans, and two-spirit resource centre.

Since the VAHA was established in 2014, it has been launching projects to attempt to address the city’s housing crisis. It is currently working towards the delivery of 2,200 new affordable rental housing units on city-owned land, with 19 new housing sites currently in development.

The agency also recently opened the city’s first temporary modular housing project comprised of 40 new affordable rental housing units at 220 Terminal Ave. The project was completed in approximately nine months. The VAHA hopes to replicate this model to provide additional temporary housing.

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