City eyes incentives for rental development

Victoria council agreed to explore a made-in-Victoria incentive program for developers to build new rental stock.

Dean Fortin wasted no time introducing incentives for secondary suites at the start of his first term as Victoria’s mayor. Now, as he starts his second term, he’s casting his sights on new incentives to increase the city’s rental stock – and he’s hoping for better results.

Council agreed last week to explore a made-in-Victoria incentive program for developers to build new rental stock.

At the meeting last week, staff reported on a program in Vancouver called Short Term Incentives for Rental, which ended Dec. 15.

“We can do better, quite frankly,” said Roy Brooke, the new director of sustainability. Examples of incentives include expedited processing time for rental development applications, and using housing agreements to decrease the property assessment.

Fortin cautioned against taking too long to write great policy.

“I don’t want to take so much time we forget what the question is,” he said. Instead, he asked staff if there are any “quick hit” incentives that could be used to get results.

For example, the city could create a rental-development zone subject to property tax exemptions, Fortin mused.

Brooke, however, cautioned against acting too quickly.

Required, he said, is a “thorough needs assessment, so we’re doing the right thing and getting the right results, and I do think we should take the time to do that.”

The discussion came up one day after the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation released its latest vacancy-rates update for Victoria.

The rate has inched up to 1.8 per cent in 2011, up from 1.3 per cent last year.

According to the 2006 census, 60 per cent of all Victoria households are renters, compared to a provincial average of 30 per cent.

To date, only 25 households have taken advantage of the city’s grant program for secondary suites, introduced three years ago.