More Specific Platform Goals
As I learn more, my platform is evolving. Here is a note that I wrote on August 30th, 2018 in response to the fact that many new candidates don’t want to work hard or know what they are doing. But the last council apparently did work hard and knew what they are doing, but still didn’t manage to solve the problems that made Vancouver lose its coveted #1 spot as the best place to live.
As a candidate running for Vancouver City Council, I am willing to work hard to make the city run better. But with a first-time mayor, opposing viewpoints from competing political parties, and 10,000 employees, it won’t be easy to keep the city running smoothly. Also, Vancouver recently dropped to 88th place, in the “best Canadian cities to live” rankings by financial magazine “MoneySense” thank to the major election issues: housing affordability and crime, with the crime often related to drug addiction.
A lady with the initials of S.J. made also wrote a good comment on one of the many affordable housing stories on Facebook saying “Developers (in Vancouver) are getting very wealthy building massive complexes and, consequently, we don’t have enough schools, hospitals, parks, community centres, seniors’ facilities, social housing, or daycares to accommodate the rapid increase in population.” So, we need to clean up the city, build infrastructure, somehow make housing affordable and do it all right now.
So what would I do about it? When listening to a developer, Byron Chard, speaking Monday, August 27 at a meeting held at city hall for councilor & mayor candidates on how he could be encouraged to build more affordable housing in the city of Vancouver, he had 5 suggestions, which I would be happy to start implementing, if elected.
One is to create clear guidelines and policies, as developers feel anxiety not knowing if their proposals will be approved until after millions are spent. The second item is to reduce approval timelines to fewer than 2 years. As he put it, time is money and developers of purpose-built rental housing can’t presell condos and generate revenue until the first tenants are ready to move in – and with the zoning by-laws and recent updates & amendments, this process now takes 3 to 5 years, or 5 to 7 years, according to other realtors. The third is help developers balance revenue from development with housing objectives. The 4th thing is to allow the developer to cover costs and make it easier for investors to stay motivated. The fifth thing is, he encourages city hall to sit down and work with developers by help remove any other barriers to building affordable purpose-built rental housing.
Social housing and purpose built rental projects are being cancelled here and there and replaced with luxury condos that increase density, but add nothing to the pool of affordable housing in Vancouver. Elizabeth Murphy stated that “Rezoning has been central to the rise in real estate prices that fuels the affordability crisis. The older, more-affordable stock is demolished to be replaced by much more expensive new development, both for ownership or rental. Foreign capital has further escalated this cycle.”
Other things I would do are to look to other cities who are tackling the same problems, like Los Angeles, one of Vancouver’s sister cities. They have suggestions like “adaptive reuse” of economically obsolete commercial buildings for housing. Possibly establishing a “Affordable Housing Trust Fund” that provides incentives for purpose built rentals by including predevelopment, site acquisition, new construction and rehabilitation activities for older rental units. They even provide minor home repair services for elderly & disabled residents by installing safety, security and accessibility features, so they can stay in their homes longer. Finally, they are trying to offer housing vouchers that provide rental assistance, to low-income, disabled and elder households.
All of the ideas in this article came from experts and people who have studied the issue. That is the first thing I would do is to assign a task force to affordable housing that would have a mandate to speak with experts and stakeholders on all sides of the issue to find out what is really going on and what can be done to change things in such a way as to not collapse the economy or destroy the environment. Then would come the hard part is to get at least 6 or 7 councillors on board who would agree to support these recommendations. Finally, I would implement the ideas to build affordable housing using less regulation and more innovation. Modular or prefabricated houses. Hobbit houses, micro houses and passive houses could be good short-term solutions.
There are also some more radical ideas I would like to implement, if there would be support. One of these is to convert an old cruise ship to a temporary floating shelter boat that also offers detox and rehabilitation for homeless, as someone is trying to do in San Francisco. A second radical idea is to have unemployed homeless Vancouverites help build housing and/or shelters to learn a trade and get experience they can use to get a job. The third is to ensure that every single homeless person has a caseworker who can help them move along the continuum towards recovery. And finally, invite the street cars or trams back into the City, so that people can get out of their cars and get almost anywhere they need to go without having to worry about parking or traffic congestion. Ideas are easy for me. Achieving them will be the challenge.