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Councillor questions need for ‘locals-first’ pre-sales policy

District of North Vancouver wants residents to be first in line to buy new homes

New condo development is being built by Westbank. Photo by Mike Wakefield, North Shore News
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By Jason Gilder

A proposed ‘locals-first’ pre-sales policy for condos and townhouses has one District of North Vancouver councillor questioning whether it offends ‘core Canadian values’ in a municipality with a high immigrant population.

Coun. Mathew Bond, one of three councillors to vote against Coun. Lisa Muri’s Oct. 30 motion to develop a policy, said the idea goes against one of the country’s core values, which is inclusion.

“For someone new to this country to come here and then not be able to buy a place because of this policy, I just don’t think that’s right,” Bond told The Voice.

Coun. Roger Bassam and Coun. Robin Hicks also voted against Muri’s motion, which passed 4-3. Hicks said such a policy doesn’t address issues with housing prices and availability. Mayor Richard Walton, Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn and Coun. Jim Hanson voted in favour of Muri’s motion.

Tailoring to local residents

If the new policy gets approved, developers of new condos and apartments would make the housing exclusively accessible to North Shore residents for the first 60 days before allowing sales to others. According to the 2016 census, immigrants make up one-third of the population in North Vancouver.

A ‘locals first’ policy has been tested in West Vancouver. It was introduced two years ago and, according to Muri, the policy had a positive impact on the local housing market.

“I think it did produce opportunities for those that live in the area, or live on the North Shore, to buy into a property,” Muri told The Voice

Concerns for affordability

The Urban Development Institute has been a critic of such policy and the organization’s concern was highlighted in an Oct. 17 letter to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Anne McMullion, the institute’s president and CEO, wrote the letter to Robertson after the mayor recently proposed a locals-first policy for Vancouver.

“We have been working constructively with the city on a number of policies to address the housing affordability crisis and we don’t believe this motion advances those affordability objectives,” said McMullin in the letter that was sent to The Voice.

McMullin added that the members of institute already sell 90 per cent of their pre-sale units to local buyers. Robertson has said stories he’s heard from prospective homebuyers say otherwise.

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