COPE, Greens, and OneCity all seek a mandate for change in addressing city's housing woes

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      Over the past five weeks, the Georgia Straight has published articles outlining the housing plans of five leading Vancouver mayoral candidates (Hector Bremner, Ken Sim, Kennedy Stewart, Shauna Sylvester, and Wai Young).

      This week, we’re focusing on three progressive parties that are running candidates for council. (See below.)

      Council candidates with a fourth party, Vision Vancouver, are running on their record since 2009, which has included creating more than 2,000 new laneway homes and approving more than 1,000 new rental units per year since 2012.

      Vision Vancouver also played an instrumental role in the launch of the Vancouver Rent Bank, which offers short-term loans to low-income renters facing eviction.

      The party's candidates—Diego Cardona, Heather Deal, Catherine Evans, Tanya Paz, and Wei Qiao Zhang—support the Making Room program, which allow duplexes in single-family neighbourhoods across Vancouver.

      The rent freeze trio: COPE's Jean Swanson, Anne Roberts, and Derrick O'Keefe say its doable under the Vancouver Charter.

      Coalition of Progressive Electors

      Vancouver’s oldest left-wing party has refused to endorse either of the so-called progressive mayoral candidates—Kennedy Stewart and Shauna Sylvester—because they haven’t endorsed two key pillars in its housing platform. Council candidates Derrick O’Keefe, Anne Roberts, and Jean Swanson are calling for an immediate four-year rent freeze, which would be regulated by a new municipal rent-control board. The trio promise to pressure the province to apply rent control to housing units rather than tenants, which would prevent landlords from jacking up the cost of housing for new occupants.

      These three candidates claim that a rent freeze can be implemented through the Vancouver Charter on all new housing developments as a condition of issuing a development permit. “All new development permits for rental housing should require housing agreements that maintain rents at current levels for the next four years,” COPE states on its website.

      The other major housing plank that isn’t being supported by Stewart or Sylvester is a one-percent tax on home values over $5 million and a two-percent tax on amounts exceeding $10 million. COPE says this “mansion tax” will generate $170 million per year, which can be used to build social and co-op housing and to return land that was stolen from Indigenous nations.

      The Green party favours requiring 50 percent below-market-rate units in multi-unit projects.

      Green Party of Vancouver

      Its four council candidates (Adriane Carr, Pete Fry, Michael Wiebe, and David Wong) want the right to housing recognized in the Vancouver Charter, which would require the province to amend this legislation. The Greens also argue that the city bylaw definition of “affordable housing” should be a threshold of 30 percent of gross income on rent. In addition, Carr, Fry, Wiebe, and Wong are promising a citywide goal of incorporating 50 percent below-market-rate housing units in all multi-unit projects.

      The Green platform pledges to force developers to give local buyers preference over foreign presales as a condition of approval for building permits. Another Green promise is to conduct annual reviews of taxpayer-supported housing—including rental units created through Vision Vancouver–supported densification like STIR and Rental 100—to ensure the initial goals are being met. Last month, Carr voted against the Making Room program, attracting criticism from Yes Vancouver and Vision Vancouver campaigners who favour allowing more people to live in single-family zones.

      OneCity's Brandon Yan and Christine Boyle are calling for a land-value capture tax so the public profits from public infrastructure investments.

      OneCity Vancouver

      Like Stewart and Bremner, this party has set targets for construction of new housing. In OneCity’s case, it’s 25,000 nonmarket units over five years at rents no more than 30 percent of a tenant’s income. OneCity’s two council candidates, Christine Boyle and Brandon Yan, are proposing a surtax on homes valued at more than $4 million, which they say will bring in $262 million per year to build nonmarket housing.

      They’re also calling for a land-value capture tax on gains by property owners around the six proposed Broadway subway stations, with the funds being invested in transit services and transit projects. In addition, they’re calling on the city to work with the province “to create a made-in-Vancouver solution for a land value capture to be applied to rezoning and other land value gains”.

      “To put this in perspective, if a mere 1 percent of B.C.’s land value increase over the past ten years had been taxed, governments would have had an additional $10 billion they could have invested into affordable housing,” the party states on its website.

      That’s not all. OneCity is also demanding that the former Little Mountain social-housing site near Main Street and East 33rd Avenue be zoned entirely for rental housing. Boyle and Yan want the number of social-housing and nonmarket rentals to increase beyond the 282 that have been promised by the developer, the Holborn Group of Companies, and B.C. Housing.

      Most of the COPE, Green, OneCity, and Vision Vancouver council candidates have been endorsed by the Vancouver and District Labour Council. The exceptions are Roberts, Wiebe, and Wong.