A proposal for “people-centered” city planning and the adoption of a standard definition of housing affordability are some of the policies outlined in a full election platform released by the Green Party of Vancouver.
At a news conference next to False Creek today (September 18), Green councillor Adriane Carr and the party’s slate of candidates for council, park board, and school board outlined their ideas for areas including housing and public consultation.
“I think the most important issue facing the city is engaging people in planning so they don’t feel left out, and the way planning is done actually creates the city they want,” Carr told reporters.
“Right now we have an absolute decline in trust in city government. So many people coming to city hall who say I don’t feel you’re listening to me, and I feel when I give my input, it’s never incorporated. That has to change. We have to revamp planning.”
The Green platform proposes steps such as creating a new official community plan, and establishing and funding neighbourhood associations, similar to the Office of Neighbourhood Involvement model in Portland, Oregon.
Carr described affordable housing as “probably the top-of-mind issue” for Vancouver residents.
“We have to start in affordable housing by defining affordability in terms of what people can actually afford, and right now we don’t,” said Carr.
“The actual definition of affordability starts at over $1,400 for a studio, which is simply not affordable for those who earn on average as renters $34,000 in this city.”
The party says it will adopt the definition of affordability used by the provincial and federal governments, which is spending no more than 30 percent of gross income on housing.
Their platform also outlines policies like putting an annual limit on apartment building demolitions, empowering the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency to build, own, and sell rental housing, establishing a community-based financing agency to offer low-interest loans for affordable housing construction, and working with the province and experts on ways to encourage full-time housing occupancy, including a potential “vacant” housing levy.
“What’s jacking up the cost of housing in our city is the fact that we have upzoning or rezonings that are determining the value of land and speculation,” said Carr.
“We need to be much more clear about the fact that we need a city plan. An actual city-wide plan, so that our planning isn’t done by spot rezoning, which is a terrible way to plan and a terrible way to redo your zoning map.”
Transparency at city hall is another focus of the Green council platform, with proposals including public disclosure of lobbying activities, the establishment of an independent civic auditor and a city ombudsperson to investigate citizen complaints, detailed line-by-line operating budgets, faster responses to Freedom of Information requests, and holding public hearings in neighbourhoods, as well as evening council meetings.
The party’s school board platform includes proposals to speed up seismic upgrades, and to ensure school cafeterias and meal programs are providing nutritious food.
The park board platform calls for plans including expansion of park and recreational facilities that is proportional to population growth, and “community-driven planning”.
Park board candidate Stuart Mackinnon acknowledged that the city's joint operating agreement with community centres needs to be updated.
“But the current administration’s idea is to go in and bulldoze and tell them this is the way it’s going to be, or get out,” he charged.
“We don’t believe in that. We believe in true consultation, we believe that the community centre associations are important in Vancouver. We believe that they know best what’s going on in their community and they should have a stake at the table. It shouldn’t be our way or the highway.”
The Greens also released a series of policies related to poverty and homelessness, public transit, local economy, sustainability, and green energy.
Proposals include supporting Vancouver becoming a “Sanctuary City” for refugees, adopting a living wage policy, adding more bus lanes, looking at shifting city construction to weekends and off-peak hours, and considering bike routes off arterials.