UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Low-rise market rental buildings in New Westminster : past, present, and future Bogren, Lyle


In Canada, the supply of new rental housing has been decreasing, leaving renters more dependent on existing rental stock. Less supply, with increasing demand, necessitates the preservation of the existing rental stock. In recent years, many Canadian cities have experienced threats to their rental stock from deteriorating buildings, lessening affordability, and from luxury conversions or demolitions for redevelopment. Little information is available on threats to, and ways of preserving one form of rental housing, the low-rise market rental building, sometimes referred to as the three floor walk-up. This thesis describes the interaction between supply and demand that led to the construction of low-rise market rental buildings in the lower mainland of British Columbia, and particularly in two neighborhoods of New Westminster referred to as the study area. More importantly, because so little information is available on the low-rise stock in British Columbia, an exploratory examination of building, tenant, and owner characteristics in the study area was undertaken. The neighborhoods selected are important not only because of the large number of low-rise rental units within their boundaries, but because of the high demand for these rental units, and the pressure for redevelopment that is now occurring within these neighborhoods. Therefore, the findings of this study are of use to other urban areas in which market forces pushing for higher returns on investment come into conflict with the need of low and moderate income people to remain in locations that meet their needs. An analysis of data obtained on building, tenant, and owner characteristics revealed a number of important facts. Firstly, the needs of owners for an adequate return on their investment are met by the low-rise building stock. When capital appreciation of buildings is factored into the equation, internal rates of return on investment from low-rise buildings are equal to or greater than returns on investments of comparable risk. Secondly an analysis of data revealed that although tenant needs for comfortable, well located housing was met by low-rise apartments, that there were a number of problems evident. For instance, 51 percent of tenant households pay rent equal to or greater than 30 percent of income. Lack of affordability, the result of low incomes and increasing rents, is a significant problem in the study area. Neighborhood problems, as evidenced by a high incidence of crime and poverty is also a concern. Thirdly it was found that although most low-rise apartments are in a good state of repair, 25 percent of them are not getting needed repair. This lack of required maintenance and repair is of special concern as this stock ages and buildings deteriorate resulting in loss of rental stock. Threats of demolition for redevelopment although not of serious concern now could become a problem in the future. Finally, the lack of government involvement at all levels in preserving the existing low-rise rental stock is a cause of concern as this stock gets older. On the basis of study findings four main threats to the preservation of this rental stock were identified including building and neighborhood deterioration, lessening affordability for tenants, potential for building demolition and redevelopment, and a lack of government involvement to assist tenants and owners in need. Twenty-one alternatives to deal with threats to stock preservation, that have or might be undertaken by Federal, Provincial, or Municipal Governments, were analyzed. Guiding principles such as comprehensiveness, local responsiveness, time frame awareness, and political/financial astuteness were utilized in selecting thirteen alternatives for implementation in the study area.

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