The #DontHave1Million rally at Vancouver Art Gallery spurs mealy-mouthed response from Mayor Gregor Robertson

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      The #donthave1million rally has generated a great deal of media attention in Vancouver over the past week.

      So it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that Mayor Gregor Robertson's office has emailed a statement to the media just as the housing protest was about to begin in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

      Here's what the mayor said:

      "Today's #donthave1million rally for affordable housing is an important step to make the public aware of the negative impact that soaring housing prices are having on a younger generation in Vancouver. I hear on a daily basis from people who are struggling to stay in the city, whether it's finding a decent place to rent for their family or a modest home to make an entry into the housing market. This conversation needs to happen and I hear the concerns loud and clear—and I hope the provincial and federal governments are listening too.

      "City Hall is doing what we can to shift the housing market towards more affordable housing, whether it's through incentives to build rental housing instead of condos, requiring more family units in new projects, or investing a record $61 million into affordable housing this year. However, soaring housing prices in Vancouver—and throughout the region—require action from the BC and federal governments to create a more level playing field, which is why I raised the proposal for a speculation tax with the premier earlier last week. 

      "One of the biggest ways we could boost affordability in Vancouver and cities across the country is for the federal government to re-engage in housing. Steady, long-term cutbacks from the federal government are compounding our affordability challenges. There is huge demand from people on the affordable end of the market for new co-ops and family housing. We need a federal government to take a stand in support of affordable housing and in an election year, I urge everyone to make this a priority."

      The reality is that the #donthave1million rally is predicated mostly on the desire of younger people to own single-family homes in Vancouver. 

      It's still easy to find condos selling for far less than $1 million.

      Frankly, it's not realistic to think that most people will be able to purchase single-family homes in the city, given the shortage of single-family lots. You can't buy them in Manhattan. 

      You can't buy them in Central London. And now, it seems, you can't buy them in Vancouver.

      A speculation tax sounds nice and makes it appear as though the mayor is doing something. But the reality is that housing will only be truly affordable if the city takes even more aggressive action to rezone single-family areas in Vancouver.

      Zoning for affordable housing along the lush, tree-lined boulevards of King Edward Avenue, Angus Drive, and Cambie Street would be one way to start addressing the affordability crisis.

      Incorporating Paris's approach of having far thinner streets would be another. This could enable much more housing to be built without having to resort to towers. And zoning policies that require developers to include more affordability—perhaps by eliminating parking stalls—would be another measure that would generate results.

      Of course, none of this is likely to happen because the aging baby boomers who own single-family homes vote. They don't want to move into condo towers without parking stalls when they cash out on their residential nest egg. And Vision Vancouver councillors and the mayor don't want to commit political suicide.

      In the meantime, most of us should get over the notion of owning a single-family house and a yard in Vancouver unless it's given to us by our parents.

      There just aren't enough lots in the city for all of us even if False Creek Flats were entirely rezoned for housing.

      If you want a single-family home, there's plenty of land in Surrey and Langley. But unfortunately, there aren't nearly as many cultural amenities, libraries, beaches, craft breweries, and nice restaurants in those cities. So that's why everyone wants to live in Vancouver.

      It's called supply and demand.

      Comments

      35 Comments

      Saney McSane

      May 24, 2015 at 1:18pm

      As soon as I saw the headline include the words 'mealy-mouthed', I had to click through and see if Charlie Smith wrote this article. And, of course he did. It would behoove the Straight to perhaps put someone with less seething rage-hate towards the Mayor, Vision et al in charge of the city politics beat.

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      Ithinkcityhallisfullofitself

      May 24, 2015 at 1:23pm

      Space for rent somewhere between moonbeams ears

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      Ha ha, Charlie

      May 24, 2015 at 1:32pm

      There's PLENTY of cultural amenities outside of Vancouver, as I discovered after leaving Vancouver after living there since 2000.

      There's way more pubs, people are friendlier, there's more places to bike and run and uh, there's actually libraries in the burbs also you know.

      Get out more.

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      CityHallWatch Randy

      May 24, 2015 at 1:37pm

      Your final comment nailed it. "It's called supply and demand." That's the problem. Isn't simply responding by the default solution of increasing the supply (which is the favoured approach of the developer-consultant-architect-planner-politician-advertising-academic-media complex) already failing? Isn't it now time to put some attention into policy intervention to address the infinite demand of global money flows -- significant amounts of them apparently from money laundering? Isn't the failure of our institutions (government, academic, industry, and media) to "get the data" a serious problem -- intentional ignorance? For policy makers to respond with a shrug and excuse that "We don't have the data!" is not acceptable. They should get the data. And make policy. Time for some leadership in this department.

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      Philip Johnston

      May 24, 2015 at 1:50pm

      So much wrong with this article. Where to start? "It's called supply and demand. "Charlie Smith clearly dropped out of Economics after the first class. Excessive building of condos hasn't, isn't currently, and isn't going to bring down cost. It's a tad more complicated than that.

      "none of this is likely to happen because the aging baby boomers who own single-family homes vote." Incorrect again. Gregor relies on massive financial contributions from development companies and votes from young dumb hipsters. Boomers are the ones leading the fight against Gregor's development plans and redefinition of "social housing". They have roots here and actually care about this city.

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      born n raised in Surrey

      May 24, 2015 at 2:08pm

      I like my local beaches, libraries, restaurants and craft breweries just fine, thank you. To hell with snooty, overpriced Vancity.

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      It's called exploitation

      May 24, 2015 at 2:17pm

      Leave it to Charlie Smith to call him "mealy-mouthed" and then uphold the status quo. If the Straight is having problems getting decent journalism, perhaps less is more.

      Thing is: people have to find a way to live somewhere and to eat. Two basic necessities. Moonbeam focuses on whales and nuclear free zone. And making $200,000 to $400,000 profit off his condo. Enough to pay for a couple of university degrees at least.

      Mister Mayor: You need to be an advocate for your constituents, who need places to live. As I said above: housing is one of the two main things humans need.

      This city is disgusting as is a generation who exploits its children. You are swine. And we all will get what we deserve.

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      north shore trouble

      May 24, 2015 at 2:18pm

      Actually, prices in North Van for condos are down due to the massive overbuilding. As long as City Halls are owned by developers .... Bob Rennie's ridiculous 'idea' to get rid of all single family homes is very troubling. Those prices are due in large part to residents competing with developers, real estate commissions and flipping.

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      Benny Ross

      May 24, 2015 at 2:34pm

      How can you compare London and New York to Vancouver? London and New York have vibrant cultural scenes, history, and of course, major financial sectors.
      Vancouver is just relatively close to China and has a puppet for a mayor.

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      Roy Arden

      May 24, 2015 at 3:09pm

      Housing doesn't have to be a speculative commodity. Many, many, countries control speculation in housing and create programs to help residents afford housing. Smith rightfully derides the mayor but then repeats the bogus 'supply and demand' mantra of the developers and plutocrats. The mayor only came to his new position after the lead of Rennie, so how can anyone take him seriously? Rennie's race card is not working anymore and the powers are starting to realize they must at least pretend to do something. I can't imagine the city or provincial government taking any substantive measures to limit speculation. The only hope is with the next elections.