Vancouver councillor George Affleck thinks there are “many strange things in city hall”.
One of these, he says, is the way the City of Vancouver Public Housing Corporation is being run. The Non-Partisan Association politician is familiar with this low-profile entity because he’s been a member of its board since his election to council in 2011.
But Affleck finds it “odd” that the board, which includes Vision Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson and Coun. Kerry Jang, hasn’t conducted a single meeting since he joined the board in 2011.
“They put me in a board that never meets,” Affleck told the Straight by phone. He noted that he was appointed by the mayor to the board, whose members also include staff.
Affleck recalled that in 2012, when the housing-affordability task force cochaired by Robertson recommended the creation of a housing authority, “I said in council at that meeting when that report was presented, ‘Why are we doing this? We already have an organization with an infrastructure and a board of directors and so on. Why don’t we just use that one?’ ”
According to Jang, the corporation is a “statutory body” that oversees a number of city-owned housing units. He explained that its board hasn’t met recently because there haven’t been any issues with the properties.
“It runs fine. Why call for a meeting for meeting’s sake?” Jang told the Straight by phone. “He doesn’t even know the procedure bylaw very well, so it doesn’t surprise me that he’s raising these issues.”
The Coalition of Progressive Electors has taken an interest in the corporation because it has called for the establishment of an effective municipal housing authority. COPE board member Tristan Markle said its current incarnation is “not only ineffective, it’s almost defunct”. Markle said a good starting point would be to enhance the housing corporation’s powers, provide funding tools, and make its operations transparent.
“We want to make sure that the governance model is accountable,” Markle told the Straight by phone.
Vision’s Jang noted that staff are working on the recommendation by the mayor’s task force that a city housing authority be created.
Jang stressed one distinction: “A housing authority would be looking at ways of, for example, how you build more housing. The current one [the City of Vancouver Public Housing Corporation] just looks at running what we have.”