Wow, it’s been a long time coming. It was back in May of last year, in fact, that the city hired the University of Regina’s Business Centre for Management Development Inc to put together a new condominium conversion policy. But it’s finally here.*
And it will be considered at a meeting of Regina Planning Commission on November 28. It’s the only item on the agenda so I think they might be expecting some people will be coming out to address the committee. You can get your own copy of the new policy on the city’s website. The meeting starts at 4 pm and if you anything to say on the subject, show up a bit early to get on the speakers’ list.
• City staff are recommending that not only should this policy be passed but it should immediately go into effect and the condominium conversion moratorium should also be ended.
• Conversions won’t be considered if the CMHC vacancy rate hasn’t been one per cent or greater for the last three reports. That’s a lot lower than the old policy’s three per cent. But then there are no loop holes on that either.
• Well, no loop holes except for three. A designated heritage property, vacant buildings and buildings with fewer than five units can be considered when the vacancy rate is under one. .
• All conversions will have to provide transition measures for tenants. These include, two years guaranteed tenancy and the right of first refusal for tenants to purchase their units.
• Council will only have to consider conversion applications for buildings with more than 100 units.
There are more details but that’s enough to get you started. Be interesting to see how things go on Monday. You should come. There might be some fiery speeches. Or not.
After the jump… a footnote.
* For those who are coming late to the party, starting back in 2007 there was this huge increase in the number of applications to convert buildings that contained rental units into condominiums that could be sold off by the unit. This coincided with the vacancy rate in the city plummeting, reaching an abysmal 0.5 per cent in 2008.
Vacancy rates have rebounded somewhat. They now stand at a staggering 0.7 per cent. (The CMHC says that you need a three per cent vacancy rate to have a healthy rental market.)
Anyway, the condominium policy of the day didn’t allow condominium conversions when the vacancy rate was below three per cent but it had a couple loop holes to be used in extraordinary circumstances. And council took those loop holes and ran with them by approving pretty much every conversion that came through city hall.
Sure, they forced some provisions on developers and landlords during that time to mitigate the hardship to tenants who were being displaced. But that didn’t stop a lot of people from crying foul.
Thing is, the slow attrition of rental space wasn’t helping the vacancy rate any. And, while many of those condo suites were coming back onto the market as rental, they were being rented out at a significant premium and that added an upward pressure to rental rates in the city. (Council, you see, isn’t in the business of building or supporting affordable housing. But if they can misapply a policy so that housing becomes less affordable, well….)
Anyway, in 2008, Councillor Clipsham spearheaded a condominium conversion moratorium in late 2008 that said no more conversions until the province comes through with an affordable housing policy. Which they have yet to do.
Oh, and the moratorium allowed for all the conversions that had gotten backlogged to be dealt with — it just didn’t allow new ones to come forward — so, really, the city didn’t finish with the last conversion until this year.
That’s the back story.