(Updated to 11 am, Oct 13) CVN sent ten questions to candidates for the October 14 civic by-election in Vancouver. See the questions at this link.
Below we provide the responses, in the order received. (To read, you may find it easiest to open two windows — one with the questions, and one with the responses.)
Here is a list of the candidates (alphabetical order) and updated status of their responses:
- BREMNER, Hector (NPA) – Response received 10/11 (below)
- CARDONA, Diego (Vision Vancouver)
- DUNSDON, Mary Jean “Watermelon” (Sensible Vancouver)
- FRY, Pete (Green Party) – Response received 10/11 (below)
- GRAVES, Judy (OneCity) Response received 10/13 (below)
- LEE, Gary
- MURPHY, Damian J – Response received 10/12 (below)
- SWANSON, Jean – Response received 10/12 (below)
- WASILENKOFF, Joshua
RESPONSE FROM PETE FRY (11-Oct-2017)
ll preface my responses by suggesting there is a fair amount of disinformation being presented about what we (as a city council) can do. I find these kind of empty promises to be cynical and precisely the same tactic employed by Gregor Robertson and VISION Vancouver these last ten years — making promises they haven’t the actual ability to keep. Where applicable, I’ll indicate where the province (or feds) will need to be pushed, and what I am prepared to push on a City Council level.
You can find my entire platform at http://green17.ca/council_ platform
1. Both the Vancouver Green Party and I have long advocated for political fundraising reform.
Given that all three elected civic parties had committed to this idea in principle, but the then BC Liberal government was dragging its feet on any action, Councillor Adriane Carr attempted to introduce a voluntary civic reform which was rejected outright by both the NPA and VISION (April 30, 2014). The Greens are the only elected party who do not receive fundraising contributions from developers. I support limits on campaign spending (based on a per capita formula) and the limits outlined in the new BC Government bill. I would further like to see individual donations made eligible for tax write-off.
2. This is a major plank of my platform and something I am quite passionate about.
Since my time as chair of the Strathcona Residents and our creation of the first viaducts-fighting “Coalition of Communities” which gave rise later to the larger CVN; I’ve seen good engaged citizen input as the key to better planning and the ultimate creation of a city-wide plan to help guide our development in terms of density, affordability and transit. We believe that meaningful input at the beginning of the planning process is much better than consulting over an already formed plan.
In 2014 I made this part of my platform after travelling to Portland, Oregon and studying their Office of Neighbourhood Involvement: that model involves government funded and sanctioned neighbourhood associations who get support from the city in exchange for ensuring their associations are fair, representative of renters and owners, equanimous and well run. I wrote a bit about this in my blog last year, and hopes that new planner Gil Kelley might be more agreeable to these sorts of ideas (he was when I met him later) Needless to say, the developers and abundant housing types hate this idea — I’ve been getting steadily trolled by them since I spoke to the idea at Tom Davidoff’s housing all candidates last week.
Neighbourhood involvement to the creation of a city-wide plan is one of our five quick start immediate commitments.
3. One of our immediate commitments and something that we can *actually* do on a civic level is define affordability fixed to local incomes (not the market). This is something Councillor Carr has attempted to do but was unable to get a seconder for. This is one of our five quick start immediate commitments.
3b.) I feel “social housing” in this context is misleading given that market rents for a 1BR are now pegged at $2100/m. I feel that we can extract more benefits from the developers, not taxpayers per se. Further I think by throttling the rate of zoning for luxury development we can slow the kind of development we don’t need and encourage the kind we do need.
4.) Im on record as supporting a more permeating electrified transit grid throughout the city instead of a single expensive subway to UBC. The former will encourage a more affordable and gentler kind of density, and support more local small business; the latter will exacerbate large-scale tower-form transit oriented development and big box chain stores, while depriving us of money we could use elsewhere.
5.) Regional decisions do carry some significant complexities, not the least of which Translink’s jurisdiction over roads and transit, Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy, and the Local Government Act. These layers of jurisdictional entanglement are not easily undone. I’m not happy about the arrangement (and in particular, specific elements of the Regional Context Statement) but I recognize that practically speaking, we are obliged to act as a region and for regional interests. I do think that a solution to these concerns would be how we engage our neighbourhoods and the fact that we don’t have a city-wide plan. A resident-engaged city-wide plan should be determining how we fit within the regional context — not a council of mayors.
6.) While city powers are quite limited (we can’t freeze rents, or add new property classes for mansions, or add surtaxes, or provide capital gains tax incentives to encourage purpose built rental) we do have the power to zone/rezone and determine what gets built where.
In its purest sense, this means we can throttle the rate of the kind of development we don’t want, and encourage the kind of building that we do want. If we aren’t zoning for luxury towers but are zoning for low rise wood frame family housing and purpose built rentals we will see the market shift to meet that demand. “Builders gotta build”.
Starting with a definition of affordability that is actually fixed to local incomes (not market) —we can extract deeper levels of affordable housing. A higher percentage of affordable housing mandated in new developments (in Montreal, inclusionary zoning is at 30% on much smaller projects – in Vancouver the rate is 20% on projects over 200 units).
The city also negotiates public benefits on rezonings (community amenity contributions). These negotiations and developer pro formas need to be much more transparent, so we can be sure we are getting the maximum public benefit, not favours for political donors. We should be extracting actual housing from these developments as is done with the Whistler Housing Authority where the municipality gets outright ownership of a percentage of any given development — to use as they see fit (rental housing for workers, affordable ownership).
On a more modest scale, we should be relaxing and incentivizing the legalization of the tens of thousands illegal Secondary Suites on our city (already a source of affordable housing). We need to put a moratorium on the demolition of affordable purpose built rentals until we have a plan that actually secures replacement housing.
We need to strengthen our Tenant Relocation and Protection by-laws, to ensure loopholes that allow speculators to cosmetically refurbish and renovict affordable rentals are closed.
Many of these ideas are incorporated in our five quick start immediate commitments.
7.) On a civic level, we need to be more sensitive to the idea that along with poorly conceived new local area plans, spot and discretionary rezonings are encouraging incredible assessment increases which are in turn leading to extraordinary rent increases, or outright demolition of older commercial strips in favour of new builds with big chain frontages. We can address this through zoning and urban design guidelines (ie smaller frontages) to a certain degree.
We also have the ability to grant property tax abatement, as was done to lure Nesters and London Drugs to the Woodward’s Building. We should consider a sensible proposition to grant the same to older established local-serving businesses that are struggling to stay afloat thanks to wild assessment increases. The BC Assessment Act does allow some leeway in tax exemptions, particularly with city-owned properties
We call for the creation of Small Business Office at the City of Vancouver to support local small businesses and address the various regulatory hurdles they face right now.
On a provincial level, we need to push for split assessments and a fairer assessment system.
8.) Vancouver doesn’t have the ability to enforce rent control, it is the jurisdiction of the Provincial Tenancy Act.
In the event that the provincial Legislature were to vote in favour of amending the Vancouver Charter and Resident Tenancy Act to grant Vancouver City Council the ability to enact rent control (and that is a pretty big “IF”) I see some potential problems. Fixed term leases would need to be eliminated—that would be good, but—a challenge given that 30% of our rental stock are privately owned condominiums. We run the risk of scaring away investment in purpose built rentals, as we have seen recently in Ontario when rent control was introduced.
I see an opportunity for a type of “rent control” whereby covenants are applied to rezonings for purpose built rentals that would guarantee a rate of change limit. I don’t think it would be legally binding without a change to provincial laws though.
I do support rent control on city owned purpose built rentals, and the building of more city-owned purpose built rentals (using developer funded public benefits or extracting units as suggested above in the Whistler Housing Authority model).
9.) If we are going with the City of Vancouver’s current definition of “social housing” (ie. operated by a non-profit, with 30% of the units at HILs rate) then I would suggest 30% of the units in projects over 10. I would like to see us do better than this though. Yes, we should have “social housing” distributed throughout Vancouver, though I would expect the specifics (of location and built form) to be determined through robust community planning).
10.) The mayor’s most recent suggestion to limit pre-sales to locals is long overdue. I would suggest this sort of idea could be expanded to ensure covenants on new developments protect housing for local residents. This would be quite easy of we were extracting civic owned housing like in the Whistler model.
END OF PETE FRY RESPONSE
RESPONSE FROM HECTOR BREMNER (October 11, 2017)
1. The new BC government had the opportunity to include the municipal level of government in their current bill, and chose not to. This is likely because they were concerned with Vision Vancouver’s unpopularity, thus hoping they could spend their way to another victory. That said, I would fully support legislation that is consistent with the current Federal restrictions, and proposed provincial rules. That said, the current BC bill is not as thorough as it should be, there are lots of loopholes and it does not address the huge loans and lines of credits some parties receive. If we are to enact campaign finance reform, we should actually reform campaign finance, not just gerrymander the rules to benefit one party over another – But that is what Vision is currently supporting.
2. Public consultation is currently marred by antagonism, however, I think we need to have a city wide plan and include all Vancouverites in having a voice in discussion about the future of our city. I believe that we need to establish the facts about the current population, supply, needs and forward outlook for the next generation. Vancouverites have not been given that opportunity, they’ve received only partisan spin from City Hall. And when we cannot agree on facts, we can’t agree on plans. We need to also provide a process where people can offer their opinions and ideas and they are truly integrated into the planning process, and we also need to provide clarity.
This will result in an end to the piecemeal, building-by-building, lot-by-lot rezoning and a process that’s informed by looking at the current composition of the dwelling stock. We also need to consider residential density targets and jobs in different areas of the City so that we may give residents price and market certainty, and the ability to see the long-term vision for their city.
3a. I think that is a fair definition and I think it should be a benchmark for subsidised housing.
3b) I will move to utilize 99 year leases on City owned land and partner with homebuilders and service providers to leverage the development potential of these unsed lands to add both small and large scale social and market housing. This would generate tens of thousands of permanent units which the city can administer over the long-term, as is done in many other jurisdictions, so that we have a stable stock of affordable housing. This is the scale at which we need to address this problem. In the tens of thousands. Not little by little. The current model is less stable, as the units are not always permanently non-market, and often have expiry dates. They also can be used as bargaining chips to avoid other taxes and benefit opportunities for the public.
Again, other jurisdictions are accomplishing a robust, balanced market but Vancouver is not – the only difference is leadership.
4. I think the Broadway line, while it would have many benefits, and the project has many merits, would not have been my first choice. The important thing to remember is that public transportation cannot really succeed here until we start building a transit friendly Vancouver. The Vision Vancouver green-washing of their brand has put us behind 10 years, because we have spent a lot of time “talking” about transit, cycling and walking, but then preventing the majority of the City in developing in such as way to facilitate it. We need to act now to modify our communities to the types of housing models that make in natural for people to choose getting out of their cars, or even being car-free, like I am.
5. We need to work together and remember that all communities have to share in making the tough decisions that will benefit us all in the long term. Of course, Metro has had a habit of being insensitive at times, and sometimes they have asked communities, not just Vancouver, to shoulder an imbalanced burden. My voice will be strongly in support of regional partnerships, balanced approaches and putting future generations at the heart of planning.
6. The time of passing the buck needs to come to an end now. I’ve offered a 5 point plan, built on evidence-based approaches from similar regions that are more successful, they are:
1. Bring an end to the piecemeal, building-by-building, lot-by-lot and project-by-project rezoning. This will be replaced with zoning changes over larger zoning areas within the city that will allow flexibility to achieve greater residential density and diversity. This new approach to zoning will be informed by looking at the current composition of the dwelling stock along with residential density targets and jobs in different areas of the City. This will give residents price and market certainty, the ability to see the long-term vision for their city.
2. Move to utilize 99 year leases on City owned land and partner with homebuilders and service providers to leverage the development potential of City owned lands to add both small and large scale social and market housing.
3. Move to work to streamline the building approval process, to speed construction of new homes and move housing units to market faster. This will include the ability to prioritize social and family housing. This includes a one-window approach to expedite social and affordable housing permits and building.
4. Move to consult with citizens in a collaborative process on these planning and zoning changes, bringing certainty for residents and good ideas and concerns into the public discussion instead of maintaining its current combative posture.
5. The city will be a leader regionally in setting and achieving drastically scaled up 10 and 25 year targets for housing supply, housing density, and housing diversity, from rental and family units to affordable and social housing. The city will also collaborate with provincial and federal governments.
Our current leadership have failed to act responsibly on the housing crisis, however, I am confident that we can move past that and deliver real leadership on this critical issue.
7. The housing crisis is having many ripple effects – this is a critical one. Commercial properties are being taxed on a “land use” basis, meaning the property is taxed at the maximum that the zoning allows, not necessarily what’s actually there. This is done under the auspices of triggering development to more efficient land use, however, in reality it’s simply being used to divert more tax load onto commercial property, which is then passed to small businesses through their leases, that would otherwise be shouldered by a broader residential taxes.
The shell game of not building enough housing, and thus not broadening tax base, and reducing the work force by pricing them out of the city, is a game small business is losing badly. By ensuring robust housing options for working people, spreading tax load and targeting economic hubs for specialized tax treatments, we can ensure that small business has the customers and employees it requires, and a stable tax environment where they can reliably do business in Vancouver.
8. The two issues are tied, and both are due to lack of supply. While I don’t question their intention, all the candidates in this race are talking about backward looking solutions on the housing crisis while they ignore our supply crisis. They talk about rent controls, taxes or basement suites and shipping containers to house people. They are also pitting rich against poor, renter against owner ect… They are actually making the supply crisis worse.
The reality is 30,000 plus people are moving to this region every year. In Vancouver alone we would have to build housing equivalent to the size of the Killarney neighbourhood every 5 years just to keep up with that incoming demand, let alone improve the price and rental crisis.
That is the scale of housing supply we need to be adding to our city; I want to talk about how we do that in a way that brings us together to build all the types of housing we need. I want to put away the blaming, division and pointing fingers and instead figure our how we do this. With respect to rental , we build virtually no purpose built units due to purposely exclusionary zoning, heavy upfront fees and the longest permit applications timeframes in Western Canada. Basement suites and laneway homes are just drops in the bucket for what we really need.
My plan contemplates opening up the city to more flexible housing options, like townhomes, co-ops, row homes and more wood-frame mid-rise development that integrate into communities well and can be constructed quickly. Additionally, our 99-year lease plan for city owned land sites to build high-quality non-market housing will add tens of thousands of permanent units on a long term basis for people whose income prevents them from accessing the market units available.
Several global jurisdictions have faced similar challenges to Vancouver over the same time period, but they took action, and are now seeing positive results. It’s high time Vancouver took action, and that’s what I will do.
9. We need all types of housing, but we only build single family homes here, with just a few spots allowing multi-residential. The result has been a severely restricted supply in the market, driving speculation and out of control cost increases. We can address the vast majority of the issues by modernizing our zoning, building what we need, in the volume we need it, at the speed we need it. With more supply, comes more options, more price competition.
When the market can’t reach some people’s needs, like fixed-income seniors and others with limited income abilities, our plan is to not only incentivise social housing components in development, but proactively build social housing on city owned land at volume and manage it in a land trust – ensuring a both a robust market, and non-market, housing stock. Again – we need to scale up our action drastically to make a difference.
10. Foreign buyers taxes, restrictions and other actions can only target 6% of the market, as that is the factual level of foreign investment according to the most current and credible data sources. The hard truth is that we have restricted supply, despite being a growing and robust city, therefore increasing buyer/renter competition, and this has resulted in an imbalanced and unhealthy market.
While certain actions with respect the corporate transference of properties, registering properties in other people’s names and holding residential property in corporate names need to be acted on, the only real way to make Vancouver’s real-estate market less of a “casino” is to stop the needless restriction of middle-class friendly housing. If we are to continue down this path, our children will inherit a Vancouver that they will only be able to dream about living in.
END OF HECTOR BREMNER RESPONSE.
RESPONSE FROM JEAN SWANSON (October 12, 2017)
1. My campaign will not take money from developers or corporations and on Oct 10 we released details of all our fundraising until then. The total amount we have raised for my campaign is about the same as Chip Wilson, owner of Vancouver’s most expensive mansion, gave to Vision Vancouver in 2014. My campaign wants to ban donations from corporations and developers. We support the $1,200 limit on individual contributions.
2. Neighbourhood planning needs to involve all members of communities. And it needs to allow community members to talk and listen to each other. Vision Vancouver’s current process, where they take money from developers for campaigns and then ignore what communities say, has to stop. Public meetings need to involve outreach in all relevant languages. Public meetings about developments should allow residents to speak out and hear each other and learn from each other; they shouldn’t be about writing sticky notes to answer the city’s carefully scripted questions. When communities say no to developments, the city should say no too.
I’m afraid that the area plans for the Downtown Eastside, Grandview Woodlands, Mt Pleasant and the West End will gentrify those areas and push out current low-income residents. These plans need to be redone with a focus on real community participation and housing that is affordable to current residents.
3a) Yes. But it’s important to avoid situations where publicly subsidized housing is designed and financed for people with higher incomes. It’s way easier to finance housing at 30% of income for someone making $100K than for someone making $8K who needs the housing a lot more. So it’s important that the income spectrum represented in each building reflects those who need decent housing the most.
3b) There are several problems with the City’s definition. First, most highly-subsidized projects have rents that are still too high for low-income people. The City requires that only 30% of the units be at HILS rates, which is about $1,000 a month for a bachelor unit this year, and it’s going up next year. This is higher that the entire monthly income of a person on welfare and more than two-thirds of the income of someone on disability. That’s not affordable. That definition means that the poorest people who need housing the most desperately are not guaranteed spots in City subsidized housing. The City’s current definition also means that 70% of their so-called “social housing”, being at market rates, isn’t available to most, working class people. A so-called “social housing” project can actually gentrify a neighbourhood, pushing up land value, taxes, and rents in neighbouring buildings. So, no, I won’t advocate for this definition and have, in fact, spoken against it at City Hall.
My campaign is focusing on working for a Mansion Tax of 1% on the value of mansions over $5M and 2% on the value over $10M. We will use this revenue to end homelessness in the first year by building modular housing for every homeless person. In the second year we would have money to start building thousands of units of beautiful co-op and social housing. We could continue doing this every year, getting more and more housing out of the speculative market. We could also use some of this money to give land back to the three host nations for housing. We don’t think that the market will build housing for people who need it most so we need to get a bigger and bigger proportion of our housing outside the market like people in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Vienna have done.
4. I would work for the latter. I want to work toward making transit free. With a cheaper system this would be more financially feasible. Besides, the Broadway subway would end up being a gift of higher density to developers to build expensive condos that we don’t need along the route. We need cheaper rental, co-op, and social housing along the transit line.
5. This policy seems to assume that density per se is what we need to accommodate growth. In reality, people need homes they can afford. Look at what’s happening in Metrotown to see the impact of this policy. Hundreds of units of affordable rental are being torn down and replaced by 30-story, unaffordable condos. Hundreds of low-wage working people are displaced to areas where they have to commute to work. We need a housing policy that works to get housing out of the speculative market and build thousands of co-op and social housing units near transit so that the working people who use transit can get to work and to other places they need to go.
6. City Council can enforce section 23.8 of the Standards of Maintenance bylaw that allows them to do work in buildings where landlords refuse and the City can bill the cost to the owner. This would have prevented the loss of the Balmoral hotel and 173 relatively low-cost rooms. The City could expand its Tenant Protection and Relocation bylaw to require landlords seeking renovations to provide proof they have offered tenants the right to return to the renovated unit at the same rent. The Vancouver Charter says one of the responsibilities of council is to advocate to other levels of government on behalf of residents. This is what I would push for. We could more fiercely fight for the money, provided by a mansion tax, needed for social and co-op housing. They could change their definition of social housing so more low-income people could afford it.
7. Income taxes are progressive: one rate for low income people, another for richer people. Why couldn’t we have progressive business taxes with one rate for small business and another for Walmart-type businesses? We could work for rent control for small businesses, and, importantly, the City needs to protect small business before rezoning an area, not after the rezoning has displaced most of them.
8. Our campaign is calling for a 4 year rent freeze in privately-owned buildings to be assessed at the end of the provincial government’s term in office. Part of truly freezing the rents, however, involves closing a loophole landlords often us. Rents have gone up by 20% in just the last year. If you move out, the landlord can raise rents to whatever the market will bear – or however much the new tenant will pay. One way landlords ensure they get new tenants – who they can charge more than the allowable rent increase – is by claiming the unit needs a renovation, and that they need to evict the tenant. The City, fortunately, has the power to eliminate the incentive for landlords to renovict tenants by requiring, as a condition of issuing building permits, that landlords promise to maintain rents at existing levels after work is completed. With its current powers under the Vancouver Charter, the City can institute a rent freeze in rental units that undergo renovations right now. It already has the power – it just has to enforce it. The City’s Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy provides monetary compensation to renovicted tenants but that doesn’t really prevent renovictions from happening. That’s just an extra cost landlords have to shoulder. The City can and should ensure that, as a condition of issuing a building permit or development permit involving rental units, landlords prove they have found suitable interim accommodation at the same rent for all tenants who will be displaced due to renovations; and that there is a signed contract that gives tenants the right to move back into their unit, or a new replacement unit, at the same rent as they were previously paying once renovations are complete. This would undermine the incentive to renovict and it only requires expanding the existing policy.
9. There should definitely be more social housing in areas that don’t have it. Areas like the Downtown Eastside that are pleading for it should also get more because the need is so great. Inclusionary zoning is dicey. While it can provide affordable units, developers require extra density to provide social housing. And sometimes they don’t even provide it, just get a non profit or government to pay for it. So transparency is a huge issue here. In addition, if developers provide social housing as their contribution for extra density, they won’t be providing other amenities like parks, community centres etc. Will we have dense developments with no amenities? Also the extra density can gentrify existing low income areas, pushing up rents and pushing out low income people. We don’t want this. Also if you say 10, or 20 or 30% of the units have to be social housing, what are the rents? If we use Vision’s definitions, very few units would be for people who need them most. Plus, if you make 10 or 20 or 30 per cent social housing, that means at least 70 to 90 percent of the housing that gets built is not the housing that we need. That’s why our campaign is not relying on inclusionary zoning as a means to end the housing crisis. It won’t. We need to get housing out of the market and we propose using the mansion tax to provide revenue to build beautiful co-op and social housing like they have in Vienna.
10. The Foreign Buyer tax needs to be reworked to become a speculator/investor tax so it applies to speculators and investors no matter where they are from. We should consider a moratorium on luxury developments. No more. Not until affordable rentals catch up. The phenomena is not just an offshore investing. There’s plenty of local investing too. Just like the Mansion Tax, extra taxes could be levied on homes that are not residential. Such taxes could be reduced or waived if those places were rented out at affordable rates. Push for the Foreign Buyer tax to be reworked as a Speculator / Investor Tax.
END OF RESPONSE FROM JEAN SWANSON
RESPONSE FROM DAMIAN MURPHY (October 12, 2017)
1. From the beginning of my campaign I have been open and transparent about my stand in getting big money out of municipal politics and I applaud our new provincial government to move forward on the same.
On September 21st I announced on my campaign Facebook page (Damian Murphy 4 Vancouver City Council) that I am asking financial supporters to limit their contributions to $50.00.
On October 2nd at the all candidates meeting hosted by the Grandview Woodland Area Council at Britannia High School I publicly announced that my campaign budget is $10,000.00 and that I had raised almost 10% of that amount to date. Only one other Independent candidate hinted at what their budget is.
I have run a grassroots campaign and have not been actively soliciting contributions but rather have accepted what folks have offered as long as it is no more than $50.00.
It shouldn’t cost millions of dollars to be a representative of the residents of Vancouver and have a seat at the table at City Hall. I’d rather see that kind of money donated to local charitable causes but I acknowledge that, today, folks are free to spend their money as they please in the political arena today.
This issue is finally seeing some traction in the last days of the campaign and I am happy it’s being talked about.
As Your Independent Voice on Vancouver City Council I would move to follow the province’s lead to limit fundraising in politics at the municipal level.
I would not exclude developers/unions/corporations from contributing as long as it is within the agreed upon limits.
To ensure an informed electorate I would also advocate for free and equal “air time” in the local media so that candidates who do not belong to a party have an equitable opportunity to have their thoughts known and shared
2. The kind of community consultation I have seen over the last decade need work.
Community consultation needs to be more active and less passive. True community consultation involves making information more widespread and available in languages other than English and should be facilitated by local stakeholders rather than paid outside consultants.
I would also recommend to City staff that consultations include:
. A sustained variety of days, times and locations that encourage more community input
. Consultations that start at the beginning stage of any relevant issue
. Are held in multiple locations throughout neighbourhoods over time and make sense to
gather as diverse opinions as possible i.e. through schools, businesses, non-profits,
community associations and social service organizations
. Citizens’ assemblies at the early stage of consultations
. Diverse platforms for input, not just tick boxes online at the City
. Faster reporting out on outcomes of said consultations
Neighbourhood involvement and engagement is admittedly difficult in a time where people are struggling and focused on just getting by to make the most for themselves and their families.
Less than half of eligible voters come out and vote. A truly civic society facilitates at every available opportunity involvement at the local level. Local decisions need to be local.
I also support the creation of a Ward system in Vancouver to achieve these kinds of democratic reforms.
3a)CMHC defines housing as affordable if shelter costs account for less than 30 per cent of before-tax household income. Do you agree that this definition should be used for publicly subsidized rental projects and will you advocate for its inclusion in all such projects?
Yes. 100% I support this kind of rent control for publicly subsidized projects on City owned/partnered assets. For folks on provincial income assistance, both basic and disability, the rent should be pegged at shelter rates (+ utilities). Rent Geared to Income (+ utilities) for other tenants along with an annual income review with a maximum threshold rental subsidy allowance for annual incomes not derived from pensions.
3b) Yes. Provincial subsidies may supplement the rent. The City provides subsidies in other forms including land, property tax incentives, developments levies and other relaxations i.e. parking. The City also has the power to leverage assets to make these kinds of projects a reality. I agree with this and will advocate for its inclusion and for transparency in the process.
4. It’s a challenging issue that involves multiple layers of governmental involvement. Translink can enhance the surface level transit through our existing network. The subway seeks to connect a growing network of above grade rail with a growing underground system.
We have to be prepared to move our growing population efficiently east-west and north-south throughout our city. Extending parking restrictions and implementing more HOV lanes along Broadway and other arterials can help move buses and multi-passenger vehicles more efficiently.
I have lived and spent time in very dense cities in the world where an underground transit system makes sense. We can be ahead of the curve and these issues are and they should be examined now.
I acknowledge that I need to study more about the cost/benefits of LRT but I am not opposed to a subway.
5. It makes sense to improve efficiency in commuting since so many people cannot afford to live in Vancouver but work here. I favour transit oriented development but that does not mean that citizens in the affected areas should not have a say in those developments. Arterial roads are busy with traffic already and I wouldn’t want my front yard facing 12th Ave, for example, it doesn’t seem safe. I support the concept of Frequent Transit Corridors.
. Implement rent controls on City owned/partnered rental properties
. Allow rezoning across wider areas of the City with an emphasis on purpose built rentals
. Purchase older rental stock and preserve as rent controlled assets
. Streamline development permits for specific projects that promote a variety of building forms
7. Increased property taxes lead to increased lease rates for small businesses. This in turn can lead to higher prices for goods and services provided by these businesses. This discourages small businesses from even starting up.
. Increase the supply of retail properties through mixed use developments especially those tied to purpose built rentals
. Enforce by-laws so that retail property owners maintain closed storefronts
. Consider something similar to the foreign buyer’s tax for foreign owned retail properties
. Consider property tax incentives for retail property owners who provide fixed lease rates to small businesses with, say, less than ten employees who are paying a living wage of at least $20/hour.
. Rent controls are possible on City owned/ partnered assets and I support this.
. Relaxations for secondary/tertiary suites can help bring rents down without the need for a freeze.
. As a Councillor I can advocate to the Province to limit allowable annual rent increases to the inflation rate only
9. Some neighbourhoods are shouldering more of the development of social housing than others and this is not fair. This form of development should be spread more equitably throughout the City but this can only be achieved through rezoning.
I’m not sure we can put a percentage of guaranteed units within any given development at a fixed or below market rate. Something around 15% seems right but it really depends on the project. Mixed developments reflect the greater community where we all live together so it makes sense not to ghettoize people who cannot afford market rent in one district or another. Many of the people I work with want nothing more than to live in a safe and quiet neighbourhood.
10. I think schemes to manipulate the free market in this way are unfeasible and not achievable. I do think homes should be lived in and I support regulations like the empty home tax (which should be raised). I also believe that expanding the stock of City owned rental apartments and development of new purpose-built rentals can alleviate pressures on the demand side. Provincial regulations on foreign ownership and other measures to limit the purchase and development of housing merely as an investment are good first steps. We need to incentivize smaller builders and developers to build a variety of forms including laneway homes, infills, fourplexes + etc. to bolster the supply of affordable homes whether rentals or homes for the real estate market. I’ve seen examples where properties that once had a single family home on a standard sized lot have been stratified and now provide homes for up to nine families.
We have to be creative to achieve the kind of density we will need as our City continues to grow.
END OF RESPONSE FROM DAMIAN MURPHY
RESPONSE FROM JUDY GRAVES (October 13, 2017)
1. I am in support of campaign finance reform and would enthusiastically support adopting the new Provincial legislation at the municipal level, ideally with a lower individual donation limit. OneCity has called for an individual donation limit of $250. It is essential that we get big developer money out of Vancouver municipal politics. One reason I chose to run with OneCity is because they have been advocates of campaign finance reform since their inception, and I know from my years at City Hall that you only need to follow the money to know how a City Councillor will vote.
2. I believe that all neighbourhoods in Vancouver can be enriched and enlivened by increased density, better bus service, affordable rental housing, and social housing. Imagine children playing in the streets in the West Side, and seniors who are able to downsize in their own communities, I believe that it’s the residents of these neighbourhoods who know best how development and change can most positively affect their communities, and we should start by soliciting their opinions.
3a) Yes. I learned this definition way back on home-economics.
3b) I believe that all major developments should include 20% units that are affordable rental (as defined in the previous question; 30% of household income). This should be a baseline for building a new market development – not something that gets you lots of special breaks and deals.
4. I believe that the prioritization of the Broadway subway is misplaced. I would rather see a surface transportation network of buses and light rail that could improve service throughout Vancouver, and dedicated bus lanes to decrease the congestion that buses have to fight through.
5. I disagree with that change. I believe that Vancouver is long overdue for a city-wide plan, in which planning for major arterial routes should be an important consideration. I also believe that the citizens affected should be fully heard in the process.
6. The City of Vancouver’s major tool at its disposal is zoning and land use. First, the City of Vancouver should never sell its publicly held lands, and instead use that land to build affordable rental homes for Vancouverites. The CoV should also allow low-rise rental housing in many more places through the city than it presently does. Inclusionary zoning is another important tool the City of Vancouver should use to affect affordability. All larger new developments should contain a proportion (I like 20%) of affordable or social housing, throughout the entire city.
Regarding lobbying the Province, there is a big difference between making general calls for the Province for subsidies, funds, or to act on specific issues and asking for specific legislative changes that will create permanent revenue streams for the City of Vancouver. To paraphrase the old parable – ask for money from the province, build housing for a year; ask for a permanent revenue stream from the province, solve the housing crisis for a generation. I plan to do the second through my Luxury Housing tax and Flipping Levy.
7. The closures of the local businesses that make our streets vibrant, and offer jobs and opportunities for many people in our city, is a tragic effect of the affordability crisis ravaging Vancouver. In my neighbourhood, the West End, it seems like beloved businesses along Davie and Denman close daily. As a City Councillor, I would direct staff to investigate and report on tools available to the City of Vancouver to maintain these small businesses. In City of Vancouver-owned retail spaces (in the retail level of a housing development, for example), I would prioritize smaller and independent businesses.
8. Yes. Imposing rent control is in the Province’s jurisdiction, but I would advocate strongly for the following changes to the Residential Tenancy Act:
1. Rent control legislation being tied to the unit/address, and not the tenant.
2. Allowing a provincially regulated rent increase at a given address only once every 24 months.
3. Ending the loophole that allows the landlord to set any rent after the end of a long-term lease. Since 2002, British Columbia has had a two-tiered system where fixed-term renters get no protection, while those who rent month-to-month do.
4. Ending the geographic increase loophole which allows rent increases to be above guidelines in certain geographic locations.
5. Ensuring rent increases would never be greater than the rate of inflation, rather than the inflation +2 percent limit presently in place.
9. I absolutely believe that all developments should include 20% units that are guaranteed affordable housing (30% of income – whether that income is social assistance or a decent job). I think such a measure would not only increase affordability in our city; it would also increase diversity and livability. A community that includes people of all incomes and ages is a healthy and vibrant community.
10. All of the decisions I would make as a City Councillor would be through the lens of my belief that housing is a human right. I believe that the City of Vancouver should be building affordable rental housing, and should ultimately work with the province to address the demand-side issues that have resulted in the insatiable appetite for Vancouver real-estate
END OF RESPONSE FROM JUDY GRAVES
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