COPE details Vancouver housing authority proposal

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      The Coalition of Progressive Electors wants to see the city build and own new housing.

      Mayoral candidate Meena Wong detailed the party’s proposal for a Vancouver housing authority today (October 29), which the party says would generate 800 units of city-owned housing per year.

      Half of those units would be social housing to replace privately-owned single-room occupancy hotels in the Downtown Eastside, she said.

      It’s a plan that Wong acknowledges is contingent on senior government funding. But she believes that even without support from those governments, the city would still be able to implement the policy.

      “We think that we still have enough resources to build city-owned and maintained, revenue-generating affordable housing on city-owned land,” she told the Straight by phone, noting that affordable would be defined as 30 percent of a tenant's income.

      Under COPE’s plan, the authority would be funded through sources including a tax on properties that are vacant for more than a year, amounting to an estimated $10 million annually, $50 million in levies and contributions from private developers, and a “luxury housing tax”.

      That levy would be applied to homes valued at more than $1.5 million. For homes valued at $2 million, the tax would translate to an extra $42 a month. Wong said low-income homeowners would be exempt from the tax.

      “This is not going to target the low-income people who are housing rich and cash poor,” she said. “It’s targeted towards people with financial means, who are flipping the properties.”

      Other funding sources for the authority would include $10 million in property endowment fund revenues, and what COPE estimates would be $50 million in profits generated through the authority’s construction of low-end and regular market housing.

      The party is banking on securing another $25 million in funding through lobbying, including senior government funding.

      Wong criticized Vision Vancouver’s proposed affordable housing agency, which aims to use city-owned assets to create 500 new “affordable homes” in its first three years.

      “Not one unit of affordable housing that the city owns and the city builds and the city maintains,” Wong said of Vision’s proposal.

      “Affordability in Vancouver is going through the roof,” she continued. “Young people are moving out and seniors are being renovicted and also redeveloped out of their neighbourhood. We want to put a stop to that. We believe the city has a role to play in providing affordable housing.”

      COPE’s proposed authority would consist of elected members representing tenants and community members.




      Oct 30, 2014 at 8:31am

      “We think that we still have enough resources to build city-owned and maintained, revenue-generating affordable housing on city-owned land,”

      One thing that bothers me is that they know damned well that city-owned and maintained low-income housing IS NOT revenue generating, especially in a city as expensive as Vancouver. It'll be a huge money drain and once the people who are in the most need are housed, they will be quickly replaced by more people wanting to get in on the deal.

      Hopefully people will remember that, like every party, COPE is comprised of politicians dying to be in power. They will say anything to get elected. Don't just drink the Kool-aid without a fight.


      Oct 30, 2014 at 11:29am

      I see you haven't looked closely at the policy. It calls for the city to break the developer monopoly by building a mix of units, some for sale at market prices, some for subsidized housing and some for social housing. Right now private developers make all the profits from building housing. Why shouldn't the city make some? Then the city makes money and can fund social housing.

      @anonymous poster

      Oct 30, 2014 at 12:33pm

      The whole idea of low-income with market housing was a big selling point for Vision and the big problem was that people investing their money in market housing, don't want to live with low-income or subsidized housing in the same building. It has a funny way of negatively affecting property values and the building needs considerably more maintenance. This is why so many projects promised a big mix, but nobody wanted to invest in its development.

      There is a common perception that the people who purchase condos are wealthy Asian's who live out of the country and leave them empty. But many are middle-income workers who are taking a big risk and trying to get an investment for their retirement. I'm one of those. I don't have a fat public-sector pension - actually like 70% of the population I have no pension other than what I fund by myself. So in order to avoid soup kitchens as a retiree, I invested in a tiny condo in what used to be a poor part of town. I pay more than 30% of my income on it and have had to make major cuts in my lifestyle, so I'm not going to risk it, and obviously others aren't either.

      If Meena Wong thinks that somehow she can just force developers to do it her way, she's incredibly naive. If the city tries to become the developer then it will be a disaster. I just do not trust anti-capitalists to run businesses.


      Oct 30, 2014 at 1:57pm

      The city can hire people to develop property with having to generate a new department. The developer would just have to abide by certain conditions in terms of city policies, like wages and that sort of thing.

      I read the plan closely - it doesn't say anything about how the buildings will be constructed - whether or not there will be a so-called social mix. I think everyone has spoken out against that - it doesn't work. Stamps is not successful because it coaxed yuppies to live with people on social assistance. It's successful because the people who live there are in the same boat, don't judge each other and are comfortable together. No argument here.

      But if the city develops a building and sells it at market rental rate, it's business as usual - but profits go to the city, instead of to private developers.


      Oct 30, 2014 at 4:03pm


      Well there you go. She's got everything worked out and nothing could go wrong. Easy Peasy.

      Yvr Man

      Oct 31, 2014 at 9:43am

      First of all -
      At large voting should be dumped and a ward system implemented for ALL municipalities .
      if its good nough for Provincial and Federal politics then the same should be for municipalities . People want a representative that they can go to rather than the BS "at large " system where everybody is responsible - so nobody is !!!

      Term limits for all to 3 terms max , after that back to private life or jump to provincial / federal which will have the same term limits .
      being a public servant should not be a career choice .

      Where is Ellen Woodsworth?

      Oct 31, 2014 at 10:29pm

      Really tired of hearing "say anything" to get elected from Meena Wong without stopping to discuss cost, bureaucratic roadblocks, jurisdictional issues and legal challenges ahead. I'd gladly vote for the thousand times more intelligent and articulate Ellen Woodsworth than this " say whatever" candidate.


      Nov 1, 2014 at 11:31am

      COPE's proposed strategy is tried and tested in major cities around the world. By contrast Vision's strategy of letting developers go rampant and expecting low cost housing to somehow magically appear clearly hasn't worked, and won't work. The evidence is in. The cost of housing has gone through the roof through two terms of Vision's developer friendly ways. They have failed, it is time for new blood, and new ideas.