By Judy Graves
When I was born—way back in 1949—I lived with my parents in a single attic room they rented, but not for long. Because my father had fought in the Second World War, we qualified for one of the newly built two-bedroom houses near Boundary and 18th Avenue. It was veterans’ housing, built by Canadian government.
At the time, elected officials scrambled to help that generation of citizens find secure, decent housing, when the postwar population boom of new babies, new immigrants, and returning soldiers made it tough to find a home.
This is the sympathetic government response I hold in my heart and mind when I think about this city’s collective future. Vancouver city council could be scrambling to solve this generation’s housing crisis, but it hasn’t.
Instead, Vision Vancouver and the NPA have depended for decades on luxury condo developers to build homes for the 100,000 people who have moved into the city limits since 2001. It didn’t work.
You already know the result: average one-bedroom rentals are now $2,000 a month, homelessness has doubled, seniors are terrified of being reno-victed, young families are fleeing to the suburbs and beyond—perhaps taking your grandchildren with them.
This is not just a Downtown Eastside problem. This is a problem from the West End to Marpole, and Renfrew Heights to West Point Grey.
I spent 39 years working for the city as a tenant assistance coordinator and homelessness advocate. In that position, I witnessed council disregard the advice of international housing experts. Instead, it pinned its hopes on the idea that affordable housing would trickle down from luxury condo construction. But the city’s developers have been telling officials for years that they can’t afford to build new rentals for average income earners—no amount of tinkering with permit wait lines or reducing approval process times will fix that. Thus, our rental crisis grows more acute each year.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
I came out of retirement to run with OneCity because I know this crisis has a solution.
Simply put, we need to build thousands of new rental apartments in Vancouver, on land the city already owns. To pay for it, we need a civic revenue stream. I plan to put a fair and progressive surtax on the top five percent of Vancouver’s most expensive homes to pay for it. Those who have benefited most from the city’s astronomical rise in property values should help pay for the solution.
This is what a fair approach to solving the crisis looks like, and property owners from across the city (many of whom will contribute to this new tax) agree with me about this approach. It’s the only fair way to end homelessness and build the new housing we need.
I raised my daughter in rentals in this city; she and her young family have left because governments aren’t taking real action for her the way they did for my own parents.
Enough incrementalism, enough tinkering, enough protests; it’s time for real action to fix our city’s triple crisis of unaffordable housing, homelessness, and overdose deaths.
Let’s follow in the footsteps of other great cities across the world that take care of their citizens by building the homes people need to live and thrive. It’s time to build a Vancouver for everyone.More