Metro Vancouver’s developers brace for NDP policy, changes on municipal councils
Joanne Lee-Young, (THE VANCOUVER SUN) — After years of record-breaking sales, developers are bracing for action from the new NDP provincial government, shifts expected in fall elections in the makeup of some municipal councils, and the need to respond to public scrutiny of development projects.
“Change is in the wind,” said Ward McAllister, president of Ledingham McAllister Properties, at a downtown Vancouver luncheon hosted by the Urban Development Institute on Thursday for some 1,200 members of the local development sector.
It’s an annual event billed as an unveiling of the forecast for the year ahead. In 2017, the focus was on deflecting criticism by calling on the three levels of government to together address housing affordability.
This week, there was relief in the sector when B.C. Premier John Horgan, on the eve of a trade trip to Asia, ruled out banning foreign buyers from B.C. real estate.
Developers are still worried, though, that the province’s February budget may contain policies that could dampen their outlook.
But, said McAllister, there is hope that “the NDP is more moderate and learned from its (Liberal) predecessors (who brought in a foreign buyers tax). … We hope and pray they don’t get silly. … We hope they are responsible.”
It’s expected there will be taxes aimed at property speculators and a registry for tracking condo pre-sale contracts and assignment of those contracts, said McAllister. But, he added, there will likely be more money for building subsidized housing units.
Time is money and Todd Yuen, who heads the industrial development arm of Beedie Development Group, called on municipalities to invest in attracting more staff, including “the best and brightest,” to more quickly and better process development applications.
An informal poll of those at the luncheon showed 54 per cent believe no one party will win a majority in the next Vancouver election. Around 35 per cent picked the NPA to win with only eight per cent predicting a victory for Vision.
“There might be more volatility in council with members crossing back and forth as opposed to them voting following the party line,” said Jon Stovell, president of Reliance Properties, who moderated the discussion.
Beedie’s Yuen said the developers must be far more careful about public scrutiny.
Developers rallied around his company’s residential arm, Beedie Living, in criticizing city staff after Vancouver’s development permit board rejected an application to build a controversial condo project at a site in Chinatown.
“Eight years ago, nobody cared about an industrial building going up in their community. It was a non-issue. In the last little while, within specific regions, we are certainly seeing a lot more vocal opposition, not necessarily to industrial development per se, but to development in general. It’s interesting because the opposition is really not because of the character or the form, but it’s opposition to development, period.”
“Our approach has to be completely different within these communities. There has to be an understanding that when we move in, when we put a building up in the township of Langley or the city of Burnaby, there are a number of stakeholders there. The world and the whole complexity of the opposition we face is very different.
“We literally have people sitting in their cars with cameras and binoculars watching every aspect of our operations and waiting for us to make a mistake and, as soon as we do, it’s straight to the municipalities and straight to the media.”
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