Vancouver city council votes in favour of housing recommendations
Vancouver city council voted to move ahead Wednesday (October 3) with the recommendations made by the Mayor's Task Force on Housing Affordability, including a plan to establish a local housing authority.
But before council voted on the series of actions stemming from the task force, it heard from over 15 speakers opposed to some of the measures.
Several speakers raised concern over what some critics said was insufficient consultation on the action plan aimed at increasing the supply of affordable housing.
“We all want a home - I don’t think any of the speakers here are objecting to trying to address the problems of affordability and homelessness, so I hope all the councillors understand that,” Dunbar resident Susan Davis told council. “But at the same time, we have been robbed of meaningful consultation.”
Mayor Gregor Robertson disputed the argument that consultation wasn't done as he moved an amended motion at the end of Wednesday’s planning and environment committee meeting.
“I do take exception to the fact that there hasn’t been a lot of discussion and engagement around this,” he said. “This has been a constant topic for the four years that I’ve been mayor, it’s been probably the most primary concern through all of the election campaigns, and as we’ve ramped up the engagement specifically through Talk Housing To Us, that process that we had, the task force on affordability work over these last nine months - it’s all about affordability.”
The task force co-chaired by Robertson and former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Olga Ilich released its final report last week.
Its central recommendations included the implementation of an interim rezoning policy to allow for the consideration of housing forms such as duplexes, stacked townhouses and row housing near major transit arterials. Under specifications approved Wednesday, the projects will only be considered if they are 100 percent rental or sold at 20 percent below market rates, and will be restricted to a maximum of 20 projects. The policy will also be presented to citizen advisory committees and neighbourhood advisory groups for feedback.
The task force’s final report also included a proposal to thin some under-utilized streets to create room for affordable housing. That idea has drawn opposition from some community members, including David Grigg, who told council the proposed action should be referred to residents for consultation.
Robertson said the proposal, which won first place in the city’s re:Think Housing competition, will be limited to consideration as part of the three community plans underway in Marpole, Grandview-Woodland and the West End.
“There needs to be community buy-in for this obviously,” he said. “The compelling examples I think I’ve heard are where there’s a mix of green space, park space…and potentially some affordable housing.”
Vision Vancouver councillors also voted Wednesday to fast-track a model for a city-owned housing authority by the third quarter of 2013, and to evaluate existing rental protection regulations by the same time.
The protection of existing rental housing stock was among the other concerns raised by a number of speakers at the meeting, including supporters of the remaining tenants at the Little Mountain social housing development.
Former Coalition of Progressive Electors city councillor Ellen Woodsworth raised a series of criticisms with the housing affordability measures, including the task force’s definition of low-income housing starting at $21,500.
Earlier in the day, COPE released their own set of housing recommendations, including a call for affordable housing to be defined, to build city-owned and resident-managed affordable housing, and to strengthen inclusionary zoning.
Vision Vancouver councillors present at the meeting all voted in favour of the task force’s recommendations, while councillors Adriane Carr, George Affleck, and Elizabeth Ball voted against proceeding with some of the actions before allowing further input from residents.
“I don’t believe that an expert task force and their opinion trumps the opinion of our citizens, and we need to hear from them,” said Carr.