In an attempt to prevent Vancouver condo developments being marketed overseas before local buyers can buy the units, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is proposing a “locals first” policy, according to a statement from his office released October 6.
The Mayor plans to introduce the motion at the next council meeting October 17, with the aim to put a policy in place by the end of the year that “prioritizes sales of new homes in multi-family developments to local residents as part of the city’s new 10-year housing strategy,” said the statement.
It added that “local residents” are defined as “people who live and work in Metro Vancouver; whose permanent address and place of work is in the region, irrespective of citizenship.”
The Mayor’s motion aims to mimic the success of Westbank’s “locals first” policy on its Horseshoe Bay project in West Vancouver. Those requirements included:
• requiring the project to be only marketed to West Vancouver residents during the first 30 days, and then the next 60 days to residents of Metro Vancouver;
• requiring purchasers to sign a statutory declaration to demonstrate their intention to live in the building and not flip their unit; and
• restricting bulk purchases of units.
“My priority as Mayor is to deliver new housing supply that is first and foremost for people who live and work in Vancouver, and this motion aims to give local residents the first opportunity to purchase a new home,” said Robertson. “In Vancouver’s red-hot housing market, local employers are crunched to retain talent, whether they’re doctors, tech workers, retailers, firefighters, teachers or nurses. I regularly hear stories about people who work in Vancouver, but are forced to move elsewhere in the region because they can’t find a place to live. At a time when we are seeing record levels of housing construction, local residents should be able to get the first shot at purchasing a home in new developments.”
However, the industry association representing local development companies argued that the Mayor has missed the mark with this proposal, saying that locals already get first crack at the vast majority of new home presales, and that other affordability solutions are needed. The Urban Development Institute (UDI) suggested it is a myth that most new Vancouver condos are marketed overseas first.
Anne McMullin, president and CEO of UDI Pacific Region, said in a statement, “UDI members already sell the vast majority of multi-family housing units, over 90%, to local buyers, which is often a bank construction financing requirement. In addition to limiting presales to foreign buyers, banks also discourage bulk purchases of units to further inhibit speculative sales and decrease financial risk.
“While the city’s new policy framework may have public appeal, UDI recommends the City increase supply through density bonuses, reduced fees or expedited building approvals, all of which would improve affordability for locals and working professionals.”