The City of Coquitlam is getting high marks for the number of rental units in the pipeline from the Goodman Report, and the city’s manager of planning says incentives for developers are working.
With 3,632 units in 19 buildings going through city approvals or under construction, the city has the region's highest number of units on the horizon after Vancouver, which has 8,433 so far this year, according to the Goodman Report’s recent market analysis.
But Coquitlam saw only 102 units in two buildings completed to date in 2019, according to the report which details rental construction activity for Metro Vancouver this year.
In comparison, Port Coquitlam has 300 rental units in two buildings in the pipeline, with 300 units completed this year; and Port Moody has 692 units in six buildings approved or under construction as of November 2019.
The report gives kudos to several municipalities — including Coquitlam, Burnaby, North Vancouver City, New Westminster, Maple Ridge and Surrey — for creating viable programs to enhance new rental supply.
“Their tenant populations will benefit immensely by gaining access to expanded rental housing choices,” the report states.
Andrew Merrill, Coquitlam's manager of community planning, said the city has taken critical steps through its Housing Affordability Strategy to get rental units built and is on target to double the number of rental units it has currently.
“One of the big numbers I think is context and how successful rental incentives have been,” Merrill said, citing increases in allowable density among other incentives to encourage developers to add rental units to condo projects.
But with the condo sales market softening, Merrill acknowledged that some rental units may be stalled. Still, he said for the most part, proposals are still moving through city processes so they are shovel-ready when the market picks up.
“We need the condo sales in order to have the developer build the non-market rental,” Merrill told The Tri-City News.
Ensuring that new non-market and below-market rental units are built takes focus, and Merrill said the city is using funds from its affordable housing reserve fund to develop that part of the rental market.
This week, for example, Coquitlam council gave first, second and third readings to the establishment of two housing agreements with the Affordable Housing Society that will use $980,000 from the city’s $11 million reserve to cover development cost charges and permit fees for 49 below-market rental units that will be built over two phases in Anthem Properties’ development at 319 North Road.
The money is part of a $22 million development fund for the units that includes a $10.5-million subsidy from the developer, $2 million from the society, plus $9.3 million from BC Housing or a Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. mortgage.
Anthem is planning a four-phase, mixed-use development with five towers featuring approximately 1,430 market strata units that will also include 40 market rental units and 49 below-market rental units as well as child care, and commercial and office space.
Merrill cited the Anthem project as ways the city will work with developers that have partnered with non-profit agencies to build affordable rental units, and he suggested that some market rental units in the pipeline may be converted to non-market units if negotiations between applicants and senior levels of government are successful.
As for turnaround time and how quickly projects can go from submission to construction, Merrill said rental projects can be approved in 10 months if developers are “motivated” but typically take 12 to 18 months to achieve their rezoning, development permit, building permit, and servicing approvals, plus a further 18 to 24 months of construction.
This means that new units show up "on the ground" approximately two to three years after council has approved the project — a wait that prospective renters will have to endure.