The Vancouver City Council approved a tax exemption for the developers of two new apartment complexes this week, though there’s growing skepticism from the council and outright frustration from some community members over whether the tax breaks are ultimately helping or harming the city.
The Multifamily Tax Exemption program, or the MFTE, offers tax breaks to developers who price a portion of their units under a certain monthly rent threshold, or who offer to provide some sort of public benefit, such as a park or an art installation.
The idea is to increase housing stock, providing an incentive for developers to build in Vancouver. But some are starting to question if the trade-off is worth the lost revenue — and if the tax breaks are actually necessary in order to draw developers.
“It appears to be a handout,” said Glen Yung, one of the community members who addressed the council Monday and a frequent critic of the program. “We have no data specifically telling us yes, indeed, these projects wouldn’t have happened without it.”
One project approved for the program on Monday, a mixed-use complex located at 1605 Columbia St., agreed to price two of its 10 units so they’re affordable to tenants making up to 80 percent of the area’s median income. The other project, a 178-apartment complex in The Waterfront Vancouver development, will price 20 percent of its units for tenants who make 100 percent of the area’s median income.