Category Archives: 24. Policies On Housing

‘Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency’ Created By The City

VAHA
Candidates Should Possess Superhuman Powers and Pixie-Dust

“The City approved the creation of a new Affordable Housing Agency last night, an arms-length organization based on best practices in other cities to enable the creation of new low and modest income housing in Vancouver.

The Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA) will also collect available data on issues such as vacant homes, and provide information on ways to limit investor speculation and unnecessary vacancies in Vancouver’s housing market.

“The Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency will be a key tool in the City’s efforts to create new affordable housing that meets the needs of local residents,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “As well, by designating it as a research hub to monitor issues such as vacant homes and excessive investor speculation, the VAHA will contribute to an informed, fact-based discussion of Vancouver’s housing market.”

The VAHA will be comprised of a board appointed by City Council, which will include members of the community with expertise in real estate, non-profit housing, and tenant issues, among others. Its target is to create 2,500 new affordable homes by 2021, with 500 in the first three years, with a focus on affordable housing geared towards families.”

- from ‘Council approves new Affordable Housing Agency’, Mayor of Vancouver website, 10 Jul 2014

Above noted, for the record.
A “fact-based discussion of Vancouver’s housing market” sounds like a great idea.
That aside, it would be extraordinary for an Agency like this to make a real difference. It is very, very difficult to create genuinely affordable housing in the context of an extremely overvalued market.
This kind of initiative usually acts as a marker to remind us that people are concerned about the issue, rather than being a force for any substantial change.
– vreaa

Meanwhile…

“Fitch Ratings says Canada’s real estate market is as much as 20 per cent overpriced and cautions the government may need to take more measures to slow down borrowing on homes. Fitch is the second U.S. financial agency to sound the alarm on Canadian home prices in the past week, with the Morningstar research firm predicting a 30 per cent correction was possible over the next few years.

The latest warning comes as the Teranet–National Bank composite house price index for June showed prices rose 0.9 per cent from May and were up 4.4 per cent from last year. The year-to-year gain was the lowest in six months, but still more than twice the underlying level of inflation in Canada and above income growth. Prices were 8.1 per cent higher Calgary compared with a year ago, while Hamilton saw increases of 7.3 per cent and Toronto and Vancouver climbed 6.1 per cent. …

Whether Canada’s home prices are due for a big fall has been a hotly debated topic in Canada for several years, but as yet predictions of a housing bubble about to burst have not materialized.”

- from The Vancouver Sun, 14 July 2014

Policies On Housing #7 – Non-Responders; Delinquents; Hall Of Shame

We recently e-mailed candidates and parties standing for election or re-election in the upcoming Vancouver Civic Elections with an invitation to publicize their position on the most crucial issue facing the city: Housing.
We received responses from Joe Carangi, Sandy Garossino, Tim Louis and Ellen Woodsworth. Thanks, you four.
See here for links to their positions and related discussion.

Here’s the list of candidates from whom we have yet to hear:

AFFLECK, George (NPA)    george.affleck@npavancouver.ca
AQUINO, RJ (COPE)    rj@rjaquino.ca
BALL, Elizabeth (NPA)    elizabeth.ball@npavancouver.ca
BENSON, Nicole (NSV)    nbenson@nsvancouver.ca
BICKERTON, Sean (NPA)    campaign@seanbickerton.com
CARR, Adriane (Green)    acarr@bettervancouver.ca
CHARKO, Ken (NPA)    ken.charko@npavancouver.ca
DEAL, Heather (Vision Vancouver)    clrdeal@vancouver.ca
JANG, Kerry (Vision Vancouver)    kerryjang@shaw.ca
KERCHUM, Marie (NSV)    mkerchum@nsvancouver.ca
KLASSEN, Mike (NPA)    mike.klassen@npavancouver.ca
LAMARCHE, Jason (NPA)    info@JasonLamarche.ca
LOUIE, Raymond P. (Vision Vancouver)    raymond.louie@votevision.ca
MARTIN, Terry (NSV)    tmartin@nsvancouver.ca
McCREERY, Bill (NPA)    bill.mccreery@npavancouver.ca
MEGGS, Geoff (Vision Vancouver)    geoff@geoffmeggs.ca
MURPHY, Elizabeth (NSV)    emurphy@nsvancouver.ca
REIMER, Andrea (Vision Vancouver)    andrea.reimer@votevision.ca
STEVENSON, Tim (Vision Vancouver)    tim.stevenson@telus.net
TANG, Tony (Vision Vancouver)    tony.tang@votevision.ca
WONG, Francis (NPA)    francis.wong@npavancouver.ca
YUEN, Bill (NPA)    bill.yuen@npavancouver.ca

Vision Vancouver    info@votevision.ca
NSV (Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver)    http://nsvancouver.ca/contact-us/
NPA    info@npavancouver.ca
COPE    cope@cope.bc.ca


[See 'Policies On Housing' - The Positions Of Local Entities On The Challenges Facing Vancouver Housing' for an introduction/rationale for this series.]

Policies On Housing #6 – “Mayoral candidates Gregor Robertson and Suzanne Anton each said they would not put limits on foreign investment, which many observers believe is behind skyrocketing real estate prices in Vancouver.”

“At a public debate last week, both Robertson and NPA leader Suzanne Anton said neither would put limits on foreign investment, which many observers believe is behind skyrocketing real estate prices in Vancouver.”
– from Stephanie Ip, 24hours, 13 Nov 2011


[This post is not to be seen as a VREAA endorsement of any of the above positions. See 'Policies On Housing' - The Positions Of Local Entities On The Challenges Facing Vancouver Housing' for an introduction/rationale for this series.]

Policies On Housing #5 – Ellen Woodsworth, Cope City Council Candidate

1. What do you see as the main housing challenges facing Vancouver?
Homelessness and affordable housing is a chronic problem in our city. Many residents who wish to start a family and live in Vancouver are forced to move out of our city to find affordable housing. COPE is committed to creating a Vancouver where seniors, immigrants, youth and families are able to choose the communities they want to live in, build a family in and grow old in.

2. What measures do you propose to address those challenges?
Vancouver has been critically unaffordable for far too long. The lack of affordability is threatening families, seniors, immigrants and our local economy. COPE is committed to the following measure to address this issue:
• We will launch an “Affordability Crisis Commission” to determine the extent of the new crisis and recommend positive solutions to keep families, seniors, students, new immigrants and small businesses in our city.
• COPE will protect affordable housing by closing by-laws loopholes that allow affordable units to be replaced with high-end condo rentals
• COPE will set a target of creating 1000 affordable rental units in Vancouver every year. Real affordable housing, not high-end rental condos.
• Rent banks
• As a city councilor Ellen has voted to the 10 housing plan


3. What is your policy on housing densification?

New housing in Vancouver should be about the type of housing that is created and NOT the volume of housing or the number of units that are being constructed. However, it is important to built a wide range of housing to meet the range of housing needs in our city. Affordable housing should be the number one priority of housing densification projects in Vancouver because affordable housing will create a Vancouver where everyone can afford to live where they choose. As a Vancouver City Councillor, I supported the 10-year City of Vancouver Housing Plan.

4. Would you support policies that would lead to a drop in real estate values?
We live in a great city and a very desirable city. Seniors, immigrants, youth and families move to Vancouver because of the many opportunities that are available here. Directly building and maintaining a supply of affordable housing separate from market developments is going to promote affordability all over Vancouver and make our communities more inclusive. Housing will target specific groups like students, artists, families and seniors.

5. What is your own family’s housing situation?

We rented a row house for 32 years. It was recently sold and we are now looking for housing.


[This post is not to be seen as a VREAA endorsement of any of the above positions. See 'Policies On Housing' - The Positions Of Local Entities On The Challenges Facing Vancouver Housing' for an introduction/rationale for this series.]

Policies On Housing #3b – Sandy Garossino, Independent Candidate for City Council

[We have previously featured Sandy Garossino's interview with The Mainlander as part 3a of this series. Here follows her specific response to our questions. -ed.]

Thanks for getting in contact. Here follow Sandy’s responses to your questions regarding her position on housing policy.
This is an important issue for Sandy and we appreciate being able to share her thoughts with your readers.
Sincerely,
Sandy and team

1. What do you see as the main housing challenges facing Vancouver?
Battling homelessness is a constant challenge. My worry is that a housing crisis has now spread into what is termed in Hong Kong as the Sandwich Class—those with incomes above subsistence levels but below the wealth required to buy medium level property. Excessive buying of residential property for investment, rather than shelter purposes has driven housing prices to stratospheric levels relative to local median incomes. A housing crisis for the middle class stresses the entire system including our ability to house the homeless.
The larger context is the challenge that faces all global investors. Apart from labouring for wages, the way to make money is to build or invest in a business, buy stocks and bonds, or speculate on assets like real estate or gold.
In the current climate of global uncertainty, almost nothing in the world is matching Vancouver real estate for return on investment, security, and long term value. My concern is that our real estate market has morphed into a stock market, and human beings who need affordable homes are being forced out of competition.
Vancouver’s future rests on a healthy knowledge economy as well as small and medium sized businesses that will provide long-term employment. Both these sectors need young people and immigrants with good prospects and disposable incomes. Because housing prices have now detached from the local economy, we cannot offer a promising future to the very people we need to build it.

2. What measures do you propose to address those challenges?
The most important thing is to recognize that we have a problem and we must commit to solving it. We have to gather critical data, including clear information on the extent of non-resident purchasing of investment properties. We can then have an informed discussion about solutions such as incentivizing capital toward rental properties or investment in local businesses, taxing unoccupied properties at the business rate, or considering innovative zoning options. This is a sensitive issue and we need a made in Vancouver solution. Lets bring experts together to generate savvy solves that turns this into an opportunity for Vancouverites.

3. What is your policy on housing densification?
My mind is not made up on density. We must take care to add density of residences for human beings as opposed to density of investment units. A second priority is that density should be absorbed by the City on terms that meet neighbourhood objectives.
Adding density in an attempt to moderate housing prices is unlikely to work. We have to look at the demand side. That said, there are many positive benefits of the right kind of density and I am open to those.

4. Would you support policies that would lead to a drop in real estate values?
This is a time for great care in policy development.
We may well be in a real estate bubble and a sharp drop in values for other reasons is not out of the question, regardless of government policies. However, government’s role should be to modulate severe market swings and not precipitate them. Shocking the market has potential to wreak havoc on households, especially those who may be over-leveraged or recent buyers.
I think we can be more surgical in our responses. Finding solutions that look at targeting specific real estate practices can help solve some of these problems while also encouraging investment in other asset classes.

5. What is your own family’s housing situation?
I have been a homeowner for 24 years. My first house was purchased in 1987 in Point Grey for $125,000, with parents and in-laws supplementing our down payment. The opportunities that created such security for our generation have vanished and it is vital that we stand up now for young people and families.
As a homeowner, I understand the concerns of Vancouverites about possible drops in real estate values and the risks associated with broad, generic approaches to housing policies. We need to find specific, pragmatic solutions tailored to the Vancouver market.


[This post is not to be seen as a VREAA endorsement of any of the above positions. See 'Policies On Housing' - The Positions Of Local Entities On The Challenges Facing Vancouver Housing' for an introduction/rationale for this series.]

Policies On Housing #4 – Tim Louis, COPE City Council Candidate

My answers to your questions are below. Please let me know if you have any additional questions or concerns.
Best,
Tim

1. What do you see as the main housing challenges facing Vancouver?
Affordability. The average person is no longer able to afford the purchase of an apartment or a house. Even worse is the situation for people who are homeless.

2. What measures do you propose to address those challenges?

If elected I will propose the creation of a blue-ribbon committee to determine whether or not Vancouver taxpayers are getting good value for money from Vancouver City Council’s property endowment fund. This fund is worth over 1 billion dollars. I believe that the City of Vancouver could be using it to build social housing at no cost to the taxpayer.

3. What is your policy on housing densification?
As my mentor the late Councillor Harry Rankin said, “If it was not for development we would all be living in caves.” For me the question is not for or against development, but development for who — development for the benefit of the developer, or development for the benefit of the people who will live in it and for the benefit of the neighbourhood around it. I would like to see City Council empower neighbourhood councils to make all rezoning decisions that are above a certain size. I am not opposed to higher densification per se. It is the negatives that come with higher densification that I am concerned about, in particular, traffic congestion. We need to look at ways to allow developers to build car-free accommodation.

4. Would you support policies that would lead to a drop in real estate values?

People who already own homes would be unfairly hurt by a policy that would lead to a drop in real-estate values. If the current homeowner has taken out a mortgage for say 90% of the worth of their home, and values then drop by 10%, the homeowner has lost 100% of her or his equity. I am strongly supportive of policies that would bring new housing to market at below market cost.

5. What is your own family’s housing situation?
I am very fortunate. My partner Penny and I purchased our home in 1988. It came with some wonderful tenants for whom we have not raised the rent once since 1988.


[This post is not to be seen as a VREAA endorsement of any of the above positions. See 'Policies On Housing' - The Positions Of Local Entities On The Challenges Facing Vancouver Housing' for an introduction/rationale for this series.]

Policies On Housing #3 – Sandy Garossino, Independent Candidate for City Council

[Sandy Garossino had been invited by e-mail to be heard as part of this series. Her office indicated she would respond to our questions. While we await that response, here are excerpts from an interview she did with Andrew Wit and Sean Antrim in The Mainlander, 5 Nov 2011. The whole interview is a 'must-read' for those interested in the issues. Thanks to readers who alerted us to this interview. -ed.]

Andrew Witt: … I think that everyone recognizes that there is an affordability crisis in the city. In 2008, Vision Vancouver was elected on a platform that would address housing, homelessness and the affordability crisis, but we all know they have done little to tackle the problem. How will you address this issue, and what distinguishes your platform from that of Vision Vancouver?

Sandy Garossino: Almost everyone that I have heard discuss this sees the affordability issue. I’m talking here about broadening this beyond homelessness and subsidized housing, but also market housing for the average working person. Almost everyone who talks about this, talks about it in the simple supply and demand equation, and their point is to increase supply. Because I deal with Asia, I understand capital markets in Asia, and I have dealings there, this seems to me to completely miss the true nature of the issue and the challenge that we confront. Just to give you a little bit of a background, our median income levels in Metro Vancouver place 20 out of 28 urban regions in Canada. Our median income levels for 2010 were below Sudbury, Windsor and St. John’s Newfoundland. We have the highest real estate prices in Canada, relative to median income. We have almost the highest real estate in the world. Relative to median income, we are 56% higher than New York City and 31% higher than London, so there’s clearly a serious distortion in the market. One of the first challenges we have is we don’t have the data. We don’t have information that can pin-point exactly what is going on and the extent to which capital is entering, and the extent to which that capital is non-resident, and how much that is affecting the market. We need to know a lot more than we do. But based on anecdotal information, which is turning out to be corroborated in news reports, it looks like global capital is having a massive impact.
I don’t know if you saw the CBC report, where on Cambie Street bungalows were sold for an average of $3.4 million to a mainland Chinese buyer. So, this is a non-residential purchase, we know there is a flight of global capital. What most people, even many people in land development and even many people in government are not perhaps cognizant of, is the extent to which rules in other parts of the world are creating a funnel effect that is driving global capital here. The challenge is not that there’s inflow of global capital because in some ways it could be quite beneficial and benign, the problem is that it is pooling in a single asset class, residential real-estate, where there is a compelling public interest. We’ve got median income levels at Sudbury levels, and we’ve got average real estate prices that are twice the average of Canadian real-estate prices. When people are feeling that they are choking, it is because they are. It is not only choking individuals, it is choking small businesses, because there is no disposable income. Businesses can’t recruit people, they can’t recruit talent, and universities can’t recruit talent. It is corroding the entire local economy, which is primarily a small medium enterprise economy. So what to do?

Sean Antrim: Bob Rennie, when he was recently speaking to the UDI, argued that it is not money coming from around the world. He looked at all of the property taxes were going out, and found that only single digit percentages of them were going to mainland China, or even just out of the country.

Sandy Garossino: I was quite struck by that analysis, because if you or I own property in a foreign country, you would have a property manager in that local environment, and that property manager would take care of all of those things. It is completely irrelevant where property taxes were mailed to. We need better evidence. Anybody who lives on the West Side, as I do, knows how false that is. There are people in my community who describe that they are the only occupied house on their block. There are houses sitting empty. We have a situation where in the marketplace, we have excess housing. We’ve got residences, thousands of them, both single-family homes and condominiums sitting empty. Well, we’ve got a rental crisis. We need to start looking at the levers. And what can be done? I don’t have the answers because this is a really complex question, but obviously we don’t want to shock the market, because that would take a bad situation and make it infinitely worse. So my approach is to ask what are the surgical tools you could start to use. So on rezonings, if we are going to be doing spot-rezonings which at least in the short-term foreseeable future we will continue to do, those rezonings should perhaps be made conditional on all the units being occupied, regardless of who the owner is. Because off-shore owners frequently do rent out their property, and often when they do they rent it below market value, that can be useful. There’s no reason in the world that we should be rezoning properties to build towers that are not going to be fully occupied. Everything should be fully occupied.
Secondly we should be looking at some of the solutions that other countries and cities have looked at like Singapore, which creates zones. Some zones are totally open for the international market, and some zones you can’t buy in unless you are a resident.

Sandy Garossino: ” … let’s look at the low-hanging fruit. Empty condominiums, and empty residents are investment properties, they should be taxed. If it is the case that business subsidizes residential housing, it should be subsidizing residential housing, not investment units. Investments should be taxed at the business rate. I would be looking for those kinds of mechanisms. We should be looking much more closely at the nature of capital that is coming in. It can be perceived as a threat because it is operating in a negative way, that has pooled so much. It is also an opportunity – one of the real interesting features of this capital is that, generally speaking, I think it is individuals, and they also have a tolerance for lower rate of return on income, lower return on investment, than the local developers. One of the challenges of STIR is that local developers actually want a decent return, or a lot of return, on their investment. That is really difficult when you have really high bank costs, but actually the non-resident investors are prepared to live with empty-units. Return on investment is not their primary objective, they are looking for something else. We should be looking to channel that investment into rental housing, channel it into financing some of these more innovative situations.”

Sean Antrim: “Bob Rennie has talked about “social housing condos” as people buy them as investments, I’m not sure if that is what you are talking about?”

Sandy Garossino: “I am thinking in concept. I think we actually need all of the players at the table, we need developers, they do understand planning costs, and we need everybody at the table, rolling-up their sleeves and really saying “OK, we are going to crack the code on this,” and we’re going to find solutions that are not going to destroy the equity that recent young buyers, the last thing they want is anybody who is actually able to shoehorn themselves into a property and for them to lose their house because we have a crash. We can’t have that.”

Andrew Witt: “You have served on a number of different art-institutions Boards. In Vancouver there are a lot of art spaces that are under erasure, especially under the threat of real estate speculation.What is your strategy to fund these projects as well as maintain Vancouver’s dynamic artist-run culture so that it is not displaced entirely.”

Sandy Garossino: “I see this in the broader context, in cultural context. The real cause of the problem, is that real-estate prices are off the charts. Being able to fund small boxes and little spots here and there is not how you instill energy and dynamism in a cultural community. My daughter is an artist living and working in Montreal. She is in the music scene, she is rising. Things are happening there. Why? It is not because of her space, it is because she is around other exciting artists and musicians. They have a a whole scene there. It is not a typical postal-stamp place that is affordable. It is about having an environment which is artist-friendly, where it is possible to be an artist where other artists want to be.”

Sean Antrim: “Why should people vote for Sandy Garossino on November 19th?”

Sandy Garossino: “Because we do need to get new voices in and, in particular, if you look at the development issue, there’s just a huge amount of money being poured into the parties and we need to have much more wide-open ability for interesting people to come forward. The other reason is that I will attack this affordability issue, and I’m going to get right to the heart of it, and not tinker around the edges and say there, we’re done. We’re not done until people can afford to live in this city.”

[This post is not to be seen as a VREAA endorsement of any of the above positions. See 'Policies On Housing' - The Positions Of Local Entities On The Challenges Facing Vancouver Housing' for an introduction/rationale for this series.]

Policies On Housing #2 – Joe Carangi, NPA Candidate for Vancouver City Council

Here are my answers to your survey.
Sincerely, Joe Carangi, NPA Candidate for Vancouver City Council

1. What do you see as the main housing challenges facing Vancouver?
The lack of affordable housing is definitely the number one issue facing residents in Vancouver or for those who are wanting to move to our beautiful city.

2. What measures do you propose to address those challenges?
I do believe that we need to look at ways to encourage home builders to build affordable housing as part of any project City Hall approves for said developer. Also the LEED standard requirements on the building of new homes needs to be eliminated or reduced as it adds around 25% to the cost of new housing for environmental technology that is unproven (ie. Olympic Village). The City also needs to work with the Province to see if tax incentives can be granted (aside from First Time Homebuyer’s grants) to again allow for residents to purchase a new home or to make more stringent requirements for oversea buyers who buy homes for speculative investments yet chose not to live in Vancouver.

3. What is your policy on housing densification?
Housing densification has its place depending on the area in the city that this is to occur. It makes sense to build more housing units near skytrains to take advantage of this important transportation ameniity. Other areas of the City would may be ideal for such densification because it could take away from the character of the area.

4. Would you support policies that would lead to a drop in real estate
values?

This is a tough one. As a home owner I do not want my home to drop too much in value but that said a correction is definitley needed in our city regarding real estate prices.

5. What is your own family’s housing situation?
I was lucky enough to purchase my condo in 2005 so it was somewhat affordable back then. Today, this same home would be nearly double the cost.


[This post is not to be seen as a VREAA endorsement of any of the above positions. See 'Policies On Housing' - The Positions Of Local Entities On The Challenges Facing Vancouver Housing' for an introduction/rationale for this series.]

Open Invitation To Candidates and Parties In The Upcoming Vancouver Civic Elections – Publicize Your Position On Vancouver Housing

“On November 19, 2011 Vancouver residents will vote for 1 Mayor, 10 Councillors, 7 Park Commissioners and 9 School Trustees in the municipal election.”
– City of Vancouver, 2011 Election Information

We see approaches to the challenges of housing as a central issue in the upcoming elections. The following is an excerpt from a letter that has been sent to specific candidates and parties and is posted here to solicit positions from any entities involved in the elections who may not have received an e-mail but would like to make their position known. Positions will be headlined, and linked in the ‘Policies On Housing’ – The Positions Of Local Entities On The Challenges Facing Vancouver Housing’ post and sidebar.
Formal replies via e-mail, please, to vreaa@hotmail.com

Dear Candidate:
_Invitation to publicize your position on housing policy._
The ‘Vancouver Real Estate Anecdote Archive’ (VREAA) is a local blog that focuses on the personal stories of Vancouver citizens meeting the challenges of housing during a real estate price boom.
We are currently running a series of posts called ‘Policies On Housing’ in which we feature the positions of local political groups/entities who may end up shaping future policy.
We would like to invite you to lay out your policy in that regard, around the following questions:
1. What do you see as the main housing challenges facing Vancouver?
2. What measures do you propose to address those challenges?
3. What is your policy on housing densification?
4. Would you support policies that would lead to a drop in real estate
values?
5. What is your own family’s housing situation?
Your answers to these questions will be headlined as a separate post, and discussion will ensue.
This is an opportunity for you to have your position on this central issue publicized and debated.
Please send your reply to: vreaa@hotmail.com
Sincerely
‘jesse’ (frequent contributor at VREAA) &
‘vreaa’ (vancouver real estate anecdote archivist)

—//end

“Man, I really hope some candidates engage on this. Definitely prepared to listen and consider making choices based on what candidates say here on this issue.” – Royce McCutcheon, Vancouver citizen, reader and poster, VREAA 2 Nov 2011

Policies On Housing #1 – NSV (‘Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver’)

[see 'Policies On Housing' - The Positions Of Local Entities On The Challenges Facing Vancouver Housing' for an introduction/rationale for this series]

NSV (‘Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver’)
From their website, nsvancouver.ca:
“Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) is an organization made up of individual electors from neighbourhoods across Vancouver, of which many individuals are also part of neighbourhood groups whose views help to inform NSV Principles and Policies. NSV is endorsing candidates on the ballot in the upcoming 2011 civic election.
NSV is offering an alternative to Vision Vancouver and the NPA who are both effectively the same on city planning and development issues since they are heavily funded by the development industry. Regulators of land use policy, such as Vancouver’s City Council, should not be funded by those they regulate. Excessive amounts of money should not be raised or required for local elections.
NSV supports sustainable development in a scale, pace and form that protects heritage buildings, affordable rental housing and neighbourhood character, implemented through genuine grassroots neighbourhood-based planning processes. Affordable and social housing should also be a priority and designed to perform well within the scale and character of each neighbourhood. We want our city to be ecologically, socially, and financially sustainable.”

Here is ‘jesse’ on NSV’s policy on housing [Many thanks, jesse. -ed.]:
“The platform is rather detailed. It can be found here, [and archived here].
I’ll highlight a few policies that stood out to me, of which I have concerns:

“Ensure that planning and development are rooted in neighbourhood-based processes that have established community support and enhance public trust. Such processes should be genuine cooperative efforts between the City and the local community and should demonstrate substantial local support for any outcome”
This statement recurs in other policies throughout their document. Here NSV is talking about existing neighbourhood groups being more actively involved in the planning process, to the point they are given a near veto over land use planning. The issue here is that many city-wide initiatives and burdens could be nixed if such a policy is enacted. Imagine trying to get approval for treatment centres, halfway houses, or other subsidized housing in certain neighbourhoods, or even provide “medium income” housing throughout the city, from east to west. Further, density increases have been slow to materialize in certain west side neighbourhoods despite, based on price signals, a large number of people desiring to live there.

“Strive to end homelessness and poverty, and to address housing affordability more generally.”
A more general approach to housing affordability is good but it’s unclear what this means. Is “affordability” regarding ownership or just renting?

“Estimate future capacity needs based on existing population and realistic transparent projections, with raw data available to the public for ready independent review.”
Sounds good. Projections, though, can become self-fulfilling.

“Minimize rezonings that would divert development from rapid transit serving centres and high growth areas such as the Downtown District”
Uh yeah. Why rezone areas that don’t have transit? I disagree; the concept is to increase transit corridors to react to density increases, not the other way round. JMHO.

“Do not increase zoning capacity beyond what is required to realistically meet anticipated growth, so that development is directed where it should be implemented in the greatest public interest. (If the whole city is upzoned, then profitability rather than transit access may determine development, with increased orientation to automobile transportation.)”
This is a bit confusing; the “greatest public interest” is a weasel phrase. More on that below.

“Reduce/avoid regulatory disincentives to renovation of existing older character buildings to encourage adaptive reuse, which retains the affordability and embodied energy of existing buildings”
Noble, but it’s hard to see how this will align with planned density increases. Density looks to increase in specific areas, and produce larger disparity over time with this policy. Not that this is good or bad, but the conclusions seem obvious to me.

“Engage the public and other levels of government to explore and enact policies to constrain inflation of residential property values due to flipping, money laundering, and excessive foreign investment.”
This will be seen as noble, and populist, but I think vreaa and I agree this is missing the point, that there is a chronic land price bubble that extends beyond flipping, illegal activities, and foreign investors. While policies like these, if ham-fisted enough, may divert some “hot money” away, it misses the broader point, that land prices are woefully disconnected from underlying fundamentals and it’s mostly locals who are supporting valuations. [Agreed. - vreaa]


jesse adds:
“I was going to do a technical breakdown of NSV platforms but its policy is detailed enough, people can peruse it for themselves. Instead I thought I’d get on the virtual soapbox and highlight some concerns I have with their platform. I do think it’s good that it is a detailed policy. I’ve concentrated on the specific policies with which I have biggest issue. Other policies of NSV may or may not be good ideas but I support them being debated openly and on that front they seem to be adding to debate, and steering towards discussing broad housing policy as an election issue. I hope other parties and candidates can issue rebuttals to NSV’s policies or state that they agree with them.

Vancouver has a choice to make regarding increasing its density. One way is to concentrate density into areas whose existing residents are more willing to accept these increases — or cannot manage a careful, politically astute, time-heavy, media-savvy, and vocal campaign — but I also know that some neighbourhoods are much less organized than others and planning land use for the overall city “public good” produces entrenched interests that make living close to work more and more difficult as time goes on. Indeed if we look at Vancouver’s history, in certain neighbourhoods like the West End, Kits, Fairview, and more recently Mt. Pleasant, Cambie, and Main St. south of False Creek, we can see density slowly encroaching via a formal rezoning basis. This will start “creeping” outwards with more and more pressure over time.

Other neighbourhoods, mostly on the east side, have increased density through zoning for basement suites, and more recently the allowance of lane way housing city-wide. These efforts have increased dwelling capacity formally, and informally houses are adding suites more than the City wants to admit in terms of enforcement. (It has acknowledged illegal suites’ existence in working reports.) You know that I think that the City practice of “turning a blind eye” to illegal basement suites is a disingenuous way of increasing density in neighbourhoods. These suites have started to pop up on the west side too, though their instigation is more noticeable and prone to neighbours issuing complaints. It is my view this is not a good way of increasing density, producing a bifurcation of neighbourhood incomes and rendering ownership near impossible. By disallowing full-ownership density increases, it may actually increase, not decrease, speculative activity in low-density areas.

So density is coming, adding neighbourhood associations into the mix will make this process more difficult and, based on previous experience, forces density into areas where the populace doesn’t really want to be. Again, look at price signals: a great many people want to live, but are unwilling to buy, on the west side.

The City, as a whole, has the ability to decide whether protecting existing neighbourhood character by keeping density low is in the “public interest” of the city overall. I think keeping low density is going to cause more strains going forward, and increasing into medium-density similar to European or other cosmopolitan locales, as Kits/Fairview/etc. have already embarked on, is only a matter of time. At this point, given stratospheric land values, might as well hit the relief valve sooner rather than later. This is within the bounds of what the city is allowed to do and likely exactly at odds with NSV’s proposals. Increasing density in a sustainable way across the city won’t be popular, sure, but people working in, say, UBC who need to commute for close to an hour or more every working day, would likely welcome such density increases closer to their places of work. Density increases can be had by thoughtful rezonings either into multiplex or row housing (I dismiss this is not possible) of larger lots. Creative architecture can allow proper blending into neighbourhoods.

While I support more comprehensive concentration on housing policy beyond the serious problems in affordability for low-income families, which what NSV’s platform is attempting to do, I do not support the concept that Vancouver can maintain its “character”; rather it can only delay it and this will cause longer-term stresses for affordability, livability, and environmental sustainability of an extremely desirable chunk of rock. Perhaps other contributors can argue the other side, as to why certain NSV policy proposals are a good thing to pursue.”

‘Policies On Housing’ – The Positions Of Local Entities On The Challenges Facing Vancouver Housing

Posts in the series, thus far:

#1 – NSV (‘Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver’)
[Not a response, but jesse's discussion/critique of the publicized NSV position]

#2 – Joe Carangi, NPA Candidate for Vancouver City Council

#3a – Sandy Garossino, Independent Candidate for Vancouver City Council
[Excerpts from interview with 'The Mainlander']
#3b – Sandy Garossino, Independent Candidate for City Council
[Response to our questions]

#4 – Tim Louis, COPE City Council Candidate

#5 – Ellen Woodsworth, Cope City Council Candidate

[#6 - "Mayoral candidates Gregor Robertson and Suzanne Anton each said they would not put limits on foreign investment."]

#7 – Non-Responders; Delinquents; Hall Of Shame

Dear Candidate:
_Invitation to publicize your position on housing policy._
The ‘Vancouver Real Estate Anecdote Archive’ (VREAA) is a local blog that focuses on the personal stories of Vancouver citizens meeting the challenges of housing during a real estate price boom.
We are currently running a series of posts called ‘Policies On Housing’ in which we feature the positions of local political groups/entities who may end up shaping future policy.
We would like to invite you to lay out your policy in that regard, around the following questions:
1. What do you see as the main housing challenges facing Vancouver?
2. What measures do you propose to address those challenges?
3. What is your policy on housing densification?
4. Would you support policies that would lead to a drop in real estate
values?
5. What is your own family’s housing situation?
Your answers to these questions will be headlined as a separate post, and discussion will ensue.
This is an opportunity for you to have your position on this central issue publicized and debated.
Please send your reply to: vreaa@hotmail.com
Sincerely
‘jesse’ (frequent contributor at VREAA) &
‘vreaa’ (vancouver real estate anecdote archivist)

Regular readers know that we at VREAA have been pretty much agnostic when it comes to the finer points of political policy: Our focus here has rather been on the massive market forces that the speculative mania has applied. We have argued that differences in the approaches of different groups to ‘affordable’ housing in Vancouver pale into relative insignificance when it comes to the effect of the bubble, and that, when the bubble implodes, an approach to a sustainable and sensible housing policy will face challenges different from those now apparent. Debating details of policy, we’ve argued, is like debating precisely where to position the proverbial deck-chairs on the Titanic. So, we’ve argued, let the bubble play out, then respond to the terrain that remains.
We respect the fact, however, that many (most?) disagree with that position, and we acknowledge that some regular posters on these pages may have a valid point when they argue that policy is important, now. So, out of respect to that position, we will headline the housing policies of major local political groups/’players’, and discussion thereof, over an ongoing series of posts, ‘Policies On Housing’. We have invited candidates to voice their opinions by open invitation and via the e-mail above.
All of these posts will be linked in the 24. Policies On Housing sidebar category, and via the sidebar graphic, too, linking to this post.
Please, do not misinterpret any of these posts as endorsements of positions. Our aim here is to record positions, and to encourage discussion.
– vreaa