STIR program continues to stir controversy
I have the utmost respect for Blair Petrie and his long-time advocacy on behalf of low-income renters [ Letters, April 22-29]. I therefore assume that his criticism of West Enders who are opposed to spot rezonings for market rentals is due to a lack of accurate information in regard to the ill-conceived Short Term Incentives for Rental (STIR) program and these dreadful proposals, which are not consistent with area plan guidelines.
Last spring, I heard Mayor Gregor Robertson characterize the STIR program to developers as an “economic stimulus” to help bail out their supposedly ailing industry. The developers complained that the incentives were insufficient. The city complied by upping them to the point where Vancouver taxpayers will be subsidizing pricey rentals to the tune of nearly $100,000 per unit, resulting in the loss of much-needed amenities to serve the existing and expanded population.
STIR was whisked through council without public consultation, and now the city is attempting to “fast-track” spot rezonings before citizens can respond.
Fortunately, West Enders are waking up—and fast. Many who signed a petition (5,000 signatures and swelling) are renters, who along with condo owners value public amenities and responsible planning. At an overflow public meeting on April 22 attended by about 400 residents, a panel that included a planner, an economist, and an accountant accurately exposed these developer subsidies and the STIR program.
There is a superior alternative—inclusionary rental policy—which would require rentals in new development throughout Vancouver without loss of amenities, excessive bonus density, or bad planning. Speculators oppose inclusionary zoning because it constrains land price inflation, the number one enemy of affordability. When he ran for mayor, Robertson also promised inclusionary policies. We got STIR. I wonder why.
> Ned Jacobs / Vancouver
Blair Petrie refers to West Enders as NIMBY-ish and resorting to fear-mongering in expressing concerns about the STIR housing proposed for the West End. In fact, West Enders are well aware of the need for change in their community.
What they want is the opportunity to provide input into how these changes will occur. There are already mechanisms in place for this process, but the city and council have seen fit to bypass these and rob West Enders of their due process.
To suggest that a community plan is a nice idea but a luxury we can’t afford is scary. This supports the already suspect thinking of the city and the developers who came up with STIR, which would provide the West End with rental housing it doesn’t actually need. The vacancy rate, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation statistics from October 2009, was 2.1 percent, up tenfold from July 2008, when it was 0.2 percent.
Other sections of the city face similar struggles around getting their planning needs heard as the city and council increasingly turn a deaf ear to everything but larger scale development. Each time citizens fail to mobilize around these issues it’s another win for the developers.
If standing up for what we value makes us a bunch of NIMBYs, so be it. I would suggest instead that West Enders be commended for recognizing a slippery slope when they see one!
> Anne Bullock / Vancouver