British Columbia

Meet the Vancouver mayoral candidates with the boldest housing proposals

In an election where housing affordability is far and away the dominant issue, mayoral candidates have largely taken two tracts.

They're lower profile, but are throwing out big ideas to combat the city's affordability crisis

From left to right: Patrick Condon, David Chen and Hector Bremner are putting housing at the front and centre of their mayoral campaigns.

In an election where housing affordability is far and away the dominant issue, Vancouver mayoral candidates have largely taken two tracks. 

Vision Vancouver's Ian Campbell, the Non-Partisan Association's Ken Sim, and independents Shauna Sylvester and Kennedy Stewart have spoken broadly about the need to reduce home prices, though they haven't proposed massive changes to the city's current housing policies. 

But three others have made bold policies on housing the defining issue of their campaigns: Hector Bremner, David Chen and Patrick Condon.

None of them are in the top three in the most recent poll on the Vancouver election — a randomized sample of this size would yield a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

But each are hoping their intense focus on housing resonates with the public. 

Here's a brief look at each. 

Hector Bremner

​Bremner, who was elected as a NPA councillor in last year's byelection, was rejected by the party as a mayoral candidate in May.

He says he'll officially begin his run for mayor with a new, unnamed party soon. Its platform will centre around the idea of lowering prices through a huge infusion of new supply in the market, upending current neighbourhood plans which only allow single-family homes in many areas of the city.

"We have to bring in a city-wide plan, we're going to have to put density in all four corners of the city," he says, championing the idea of the private sector taking a leading role.

"The truth is the private sector is chomping on the bit to build more rental. Our housing crisis is not a failure of other levels of government. It's a failure of local government."

Bremner rejects the idea that more private development would lead to mostly luxury condos, arguing that reducing the time it takes to obtain a building permit may provide an incentive for developers to construct rental buildings.

"What staff are telling me is if [developers] propose condos, [they'll] be able to move forward much quicker, and so that's what they do. It's our fault," he said.

Patrick Condon 

Condon, who is seeking the mayoral nomination for the Coalition of Progressive Electors has centred his campaign on making non-market housing half of the city's housing stock.

It's currently nine per cent.

He also wants new taxes on development land, and a new mansion tax.

"I don't see any way that the market under present circumstances can supply housing for the average wage earner, and I think the city only has a choice, under these circumstances, to re-engage in the construction of non-market housing," said Condon, who has been a University of B.C. professor in architecture and urban design for over 25 years.

Condon's campaign, while only a week old, has been enthusiastically promoted by some on the left.

"He's got a spine. He's got a backbone that you need in a time of crisis," said Lindsay Brown, a writer and communications consultant. 

She believes other candidates are putting too much faith in the private market to lower housing prices. 

"This idea that if we just build more, and remove barriers to build more housing, prices will go down. We've had more than an decade of this idea, so I don't think there's any thing particularly valuable about Hector Bremner's idea.

"Patrick is to me the unique voice."

David Chen 

A financial planner running for the recently-established ProVancouver party, Chen said he was inspired to become politically active through attending town halls held by Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby when the NDP was in opposition.

"We felt a lot of the issues were not being talked about," said Chen, whose candidacy is enthusiastically supported by some on social media who are most vocal about the role international speculation has played on home prices.

"Something else is causing this, and it's not the supply issue ... it's an unregulated global capital issue."

Chen is proposing taxation models crediting time lived in Vancouver, zoning for purpose-built rental directly around transit hubs and implementing a 1:1 ratio of market vs. non market housing. 

He has the lowest profile of any of the declared candidates in the race, but thinks that's less of an impediment in this election.

"Times have changed. Every campaign expert under the sun is saying this a very unusual  election. Name recognition may not be what people are looking for," he said.

"We need to have bold messages, but bold messages that are possible."

About the Author

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.

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