More On The CAC Scandal

In a long piece on CACs by SFU urbanist graduate student Karen Sawatsky she supports the current system and in passing mentions my own article on CACs written here a little while ago as being part of the opposition. It is a pity she didn’t look further at the implications of the current system which requires rezoning for any CACs to be paid.

If a developer follows the rules and builds a project within the limits of the zoning previously approved for the lot(s), then no CACs are paid. The City only gains CACs when it agrees to break the social contract implied in the zoning that exists. And given that the City under Vision has become dependent — like an addict — on these payments, then the City is explicitly encouraging breaches of the zoning it had previously agreed with the neighbourhood and its residents.

In order to get around the terrible political optics that one spot-rezoning after another brings with it (because the residents generally object to the non-consensual change), Vision decided to revive the Community Plan process.  This top-down we-know-best planning scheme sought to rezone entire neighbourhoods (four at once if they had had their way) and “pre-load” the CACs into the Plan.  Of course, they have already planned their budgets to include these CACs and so, in order to guarantee the cash, they are obliged to push the developer-friendly Plans through regardless of residents’ opposition.

Is it any wonder the neighbourhoods — including what Ms. Sawatsky calls the “lefty” Drive — have been up in arms for years against Vision and its rapacious cronies?

While it might sound good to get the developers to pay in this way, any sensible person knows that the developer never pays — the cost is simply added to the price of every housing unit being built, thus exacerbating the affordability crisis.

Moreover, under the current Vision regime and its compliant Planning Department, it is only the developers and the planners who decide what community amenities we should have. Not the residents, not the taxpayers, not even the elected Councilors. This is a true scandal and must be stopped.

5 Responses to More On The CAC Scandal

  1. Alex Grunenfelder says:

    Thanks Jak, for this very concise summary! It would be really valuable to have citations of the reference sources if that’s available.

  2. Certainly it is true that the home buyer in Vancouver is forced to pay the CACs, and these drive up housing costs in Vancouver significantly above our neighbouring municipalities.

    The rational market response is to move to the suburbs, with one’s entire family, and even if one or all work in Vancouver. This of course overloads transit, which is subsidized by the taxpayer. So, we all pay, and pay, and pay…and stare up at the new canyons that our streets are becoming, or into adjacent glass curtain walls with the shades perpetually drawn.

    But to say the developers don’t mind because they just pass on the CAC costs is wrong. There are currently over 7,000 unsold condos in Vancouver, and of course 20,000+ empty ones not even on the market. People, especially young families, are fleeing for the suburbs for cheaper housing and pulling out 600 students a year from Vancouver’s schools. Vancouver’s once solid growth at just over 1% per year has slowed to a trickle, and may even be negative. It is important to realize that an empty home that was once full is negative population growth.

    And so the market has peaked and built or in-construction units that carry additional costs of high CACs, high DCLs, regulatory nightmares to gain approval, community lawsuits, building code “enhancements,” etc may simply be priced out of the market, and unsaleable.

    We are past the peak, and fear is gripping our market. The party’s over.

  3. Karen Sawatzky says:

    Hi Jak,
    Thanks for responding to my post. I actually don’t consider myself to be wholly in support of the current system as you suggest. As I say in my post, I feel most persuaded by the arguments in Patrick Condon’s Tyee piece, in which he calls for an overall community plan in order to greatly reduce reliance on spot rezoning. That does seem like a more democratic and transparent approach than what we currently have. But it’s also true that I value the public amenities the current system has produced. I feel more conflicted after researching and writing that post than I did before it.

    What I am clear about is that I would like there to be more information on the results of the CAC policy to be made publicly available and easily accessible. The three reports the city has produced so far are a good start, but I think they should include more types of info and be made available in spreadsheet format to aid analysis (which is why I created and posted my own spreadsheet). Providing pre-2010 info would be very good too.

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    More On The CAC Scandal | Jak’s View of Vancouver v.3

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