Ian Campbell: As mayor of Vancouver, I would triple the empty-homes tax and speed up permits for new housing

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      By Ian Campbell

      My name is Ian Campbell and I’m the Vision Vancouver candidate for mayor. I grew up in both my Musqueam and Squamish communities, which Vancouver is situated on.

      I’m a father of three kids and have an MBA from SFU. For the past 20 years, I’ve been the lead negotiator with the Squamish First Nation, working with the City of Vancouver, province of B.C., and federal governments on everything from the 2010 Olympic Games, environmental protection, to new housing, and services to support people in our community.

      All of that taught me important skills for running a city. But the big question is the one on everyone's mind "what are you going to do about housing in Vancouver?"

      Housing is an intensely personal issue for me in more than one way. As a father with three children and a partner, I know how hard it is to find an apartment big enough for our family. I have family members living in the Downtown Eastside. I’ve worked with businesses that struggled to keep their employees because of the cost of housing.

      There are certain values I have when it comes to housing. First and foremost, I have always believed that housing should be treated as a right, not a commodity. It’s a core principle in First Nations’ communities. As long as housing can easily be bought and sold as an investment for people anywhere in the world, we will never be able to deliver the housing we need for people who live and work in Vancouver.

      The second is that it is not "just" a supply problem, and it is not "just" a demand problem. Any candidate who tells you we can solve our housing crisis simply by flooding the market with condos or layering on new taxes without building new homes or allowing badly needed renovations on older housing stock has not looked closely at the issue.

      That’s why there are two immediate things I would do as Mayor. The first is I would triple the empty homes tax, to bring it to three percent of the assessed value of any empty home.

      I was proud of the current council for showing leadership to bring the tax in but with the first year of results now in—and an expected $30 million in empty homes tax being paid—we know there are more than 1,000 people still willing to keep their homes empty during a rental crisis despite the tax. We need to increase the deterrent.

      The second action is to speed up the time it takes to get a permit for new housing. By the end of the term, I want the city to have the fastest processing time in the region. If staff need more resources to clear the backlog and make this happen, I’ll do that.

      My third value for housing is equity. The next mayor and council need to double down on ensuring a more equitable distribution of affordable housing—including purpose-built rental housing—throughout Vancouver. We can’t just build new rental housing on busy arterials or near transit stations on the East Side.

      More than 60 percent of the city is zoned for single-family homes. I’m committed to moving forward the "Making Room" initiative council just passed to open up these low-density neighbourhoods for townhouses, low-rise apartments, and other forms of housing that support affordable options for renters and families looking for affordable ownership.

      Why should you trust me to deliver on these commitments? As the lead negotiator for the Squamish Nation and a member of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh (MST) Development Corporation, I have experience working on complex housing deals.

      The MSTDC is not a developer. It’s wholly owned by the three First Nations governments and we intend on holding our land for long-term community value through long-term leases. There is no sale of land to the highest bidder, instead, our focus is on building a mix of market, rental, co-op housing, and community amenities for the benefit of all Vancouverites.

      Some have chosen to misrepresent my work with MSTDC by calling me a developer. I am not a developer but rather a leader in First Nations government who led negotiations with other governments in a historic and collaborative effort to build affordable housing on the very land that we were forcibly removed from by the federal government decades ago—and the quality housing that successive governments denied to us. Today, we’re leading the way in providing a new, hopeful future for our children by taking control of our own destiny.

      It’s a story that all Vancouverites—Indigenous peoples and all Canadians—can be proud of. And it’s the same story that the mayor of Vancouver needs to lead efforts on if we are going to be able to come together as a city to build neighbourhoods that everyone can call home, now and in the future.

      There are lots of good ideas being put forward by different candidates in this election. What makes me different as a mayoral candidate is I’ve actually been a part of putting together housing projects. Advocacy and academia are important, but there is no substitute for hands-on experience.

      And the stakes are too high for progressives this election to risk electing anyone who promises to fix housing but has never set foot on a construction site.

      I’m excited about this election campaign, and what will no doubt be a spirited debate about different ideas for our city. With a new slate of candidates for city council, I’ll be leading a Vision Vancouver team that will put forward a bold vision for the future of Vancouver this fall. If you share my values for what Vancouver needs to do about housing, I encourage you to get involved in my campaign at votevision.ca.