British Columbia

Where candidates for Vancouver city council stand on affordable housing

Nine people are running for council spot vacated when Geoff Meggs left city politics

Justin McElroy - CBC News

October 05, 2017

The benchmark price of the average residential home in Vancouver is approximately $1.2 million, a 60 per increase from three years ago. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

With the byelection just a month away to elect one person to Vancouver's city council, candidates are making sure voters know where they stand on the cost of housing. 

Affordable housing is always an issue in Vancouver — but this is the first time voters have had a chance to choose a councillor since home costs began escalating dramatically in 2015.

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There are nine people running for the council spot vacated when Geoff Meggs left to become premier John Horgan's chief of staff. Here are their main points on the file. 

Vision: As Vancouver's ruling party, Vision has been overseeing the city's self-proclaimed "reset" of its housing strategy over the last several months.

But senior Vision campaign officials say that their candidate, Diego Cardona, will be pushing for what is described as a "renters advocate" position at city hall, to be a point person for dealing with illegal evictions and the Residential Tenancy Branch.

Cardona will also push for more pet-friendly units in city-owned properties, and ask that the first $500,000 in excess revenue from the city's empty homes tax go towards the Vancouver Rent Bank, which provides interest-free loans to people needing temporary help paying rent. 

NPA: Hector Bremner's five-point housing platform puts an emphasis on supply, proposing zoning changes over large areas "that will allow flexibility to achieve greater residential density and diversity."

He also proposes a streamlining of the building approval process, utilizing of 99-year leases on land owned by the city to build social and market housing, and a more "collaborative" process on planning and zoning changes.

Green: Pete Fry says he would want to tie the definition of "affordable" housing to median local incomes, use municipal bonds to build public housing and create a city tenants' office to support renters.

Fry would promote building more townhomes and low-rise apartments, and work to retain character homes by allowing more secondary suites and laneway houses on their property.   

OneCity: Judy Graves proposes a local luxury property surtax of 1.5 per cent on the wealthiest one per cent of property owners in Vancouver, and creating a flipping levy of between 35 and 50 per cent for any homes sold within three years of purchase.

Graves also wants anyone living in city-owned rentals to be guaranteed a fixed rental rate at 30 per cent of their income. 

COPE: The party does not have an official candidate, but instead endorsed independent Jean Swanson, who has called for a rent freeze — though she admits this would involve lobbying the provincial government, rather than direct action the city could take.

Swanson also says the city should start production of 2,138 modular housing units for the homeless, and suggests $160 million could be raised for them via a so-called "Mansion Tax". 

Sensible Vancouver: Mary Jean Dunsdon's platform focuses primarily on marijuana-related issues, but she says if elected, she would lobby the federal and provincial governments to play a larger role in reducing the homeless population.

Dunsdon would also favour policies that increase the supply of housing to low-income residents.  

Independents: Gary Lee advocates rezoning single-family housing zones to allow more duplex, triplex and fourplex developments in neighroubhoods. He also is advocating for scaling back Green Building requirements, and allowing more family-friendly units in high-density developments.  

Damian Murphy wants policies to incentivize more rental housing, and hiring of more inspectors to crackdown on illegal short-term rentals.  

Joshua Wasilenkoff has not publicly revealed his platform on affordable housing. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Justin McElroy
@j_mcelroy

Justin is the municipal affairs reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering political stories throughout the Lower Mainland.

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