Expert rips interim report of the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      A former UN special rapporteur on adequate housing says he’s unimpressed by the interim report of the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability. In an interview at the Georgia Straight office, Miloon Kothari said that he’s read the document and believes it doesn’t adopt a “rights-based” approach to housing. Instead, he characterized most of the policy proposals as more market-based, including a call to lower development costs.

      “Unless you have a situation where there is more rent control and you have a situation where more middle-income people are able to afford to live in Vancouver—and you have…more serious attempts to have mixed neighbourhoods and regulate speculation—until you see all of that, there isn’t going to be much of a change,” the New Delhi–based Kothari said.

      In 2009, Kothari wrote a report on the housing situation in Canada for the UN Human Rights Council. At the time, he reported that Vancouver had lost more than 1,400 low-income housing units since July 2003, according to nongovernmental organizations.

      Earlier this year, an Illinois-based company, Demographia, reported that Vancouver has the second-most expensive housing market in the world, after taking into account residents’ incomes. Hong Kong topped the list, which meant in effect that Vancouver has the most expensive housing in the western hemisphere. Kothari said that the public should be asking officials what they are doing to protect the nature of the city and prevent middle-income people from leaving.

      “I don’t know how the situation was allowed to get to where it has,” he said. “There is some accountability that has to be there. The bureaucrats’ response that we’re only meeting demand is not acceptable.”

      Kothari swore an affidavit in an Ontario Superior Court of Justice court case seeking to have the right to housing protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He stated in the document that it could “provide effective remedies for those who are denied access to adequate housing”.

      He said that if Vancouver adopted a rights-based approach, the first step would be to conduct a detailed assessment of where low-income and middle-income people live, as well as their housing conditions. Kothari praised Canada for pioneering the concept of a “housing continuum”, in which there are numerous options ranging from shelters for the poorest of the poor to supportive housing, hostels, rental accommodation, and ownership. But on this, his fourth visit to the city, he still hasn’t observed all of these options.

      “What I see in Vancouver is you only have two or three options,” he stated. “You’re either in a shelter or you’re renting, and that’s precarious, because now you can be thrown out.”

      He said there isn’t any genuine rent control, because under provincial legislation a landlord can announce that he or she is renovating a suite, forcing the tenant to move. “I’m sure that landlords that never even thought of renovating are saying, ‘Let’s renovate and we can have high rent.’ It’s a form of eviction, really.”

      Kothari pointed out that there is a more rights-based approach to housing in Montreal and Toronto, as well as in European cities such as Berlin and Vienna. In addition, he pointed to São Paulo, Brazil, as a city in the southern hemisphere that has rights-based legislation and that transfers money from wealthier areas to improve poorer neighbourhoods.

      “There are lots of models,” Kothari said. “I don’t think any attempts are being made to look at other models. There is sort of an arrogance in housing policy here.”


      Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.

      Comments

      26 Comments

      Shepsil

      Jul 12, 2012 at 8:44am

      Sanity prevails, but had to come half way around the world to get here.

      Realistically, we have two items that must be dealt with. First, stop bending over backwards to make life easy for developers and real estate people. Second, pass legislation that makes immigration and citizenship a mandatory requirement prior to owning land and no dual citizenships and if you want to be a citizen of Canada, then you must live here at least 6 months of the year!

      Gov'ts think they are growing the economy just because land and housing is constantly changing hands, when in fact our housing in Vancouver has just become a giant Ponzi scheme.

      Tsk Tsk Force

      Jul 12, 2012 at 8:59am

      Gregor Robertson's Task Force should be renamed "Evictions Task Force"

      Arthur Vandelay

      Jul 12, 2012 at 10:01am

      Ah yes ... the really smart guys with easy/obvious answers ... everyone else is either retarded or evil ... I hope after this one is solved we can move on to cancer and knock that one off ...

      Bob Neubauer

      Jul 12, 2012 at 10:58am

      To Arthur: Great name, hilariously idiotic comment. Did you not notice this?

      "Kothari pointed out that there is a more rights-based approach to housing in Montreal and Toronto, as well as in European cities such as Berlin and Vienna. In addition, he pointed to São Paulo, Brazil, as a city in the southern hemisphere that has rights-based legislation and that transfers money from wealthier areas to improve poorer neighbourhoods.

      “There are lots of models,” Kothari said. “I don’t think any attempts are being made to look at other models. There is sort of an arrogance in housing policy here.”"

      The idea that this is just some 'complicated' issue we just can't figure out is nonsense. It's just a hard issue to figure out if your two main political parties are in the pockets of developers.

      Taxpayers R Us

      Jul 12, 2012 at 11:00am

      "Gregor Robertson's Task Force should be renamed "Evictions Task Force"

      How about Foreign Developers' Task Force?

      Tsk Tsk Force

      Jul 12, 2012 at 11:20am

      Take your pick:

      "Evictions Task Force"
      "Developer's Task Force"
      "Affordability Destruction Task Force"
      "Condo Construction Task Force"
      "Enemy of the Poor Task Force"
      "Pizza Hut Task Force"
      "Whatever Task Force"
      "Bob Rennie's Friends Task Force"

      etc

      Ray I

      Jul 12, 2012 at 11:31am

      What a bunch of outdated socialist thinking! Views like his have been tried and have failed because they are inefficient and cost working taxpayers too much money. The best way to make housing affordable is to let the economy create good paying jobs and keep taxes for people low.

      R U Kiddingme

      Jul 12, 2012 at 12:54pm

      @ Ray I

      Yes, probably it is the best way. Raise the income, gethe house. Sure I am a protectionist myself and want to keep jobs in Canada. But what we want is gonna come, if it comes, after a long battle to overcome free trade models and other economic dis-incentives.

      What about in the meantime?

      I'm sorta for this idea of limiting sales to residents of Canada. Speculation is gambling, I'm not against it per se but there is a reason that gambling is considered vice. It tends to harm people, in this case, renters.

      Condo sales to offshore buyers should be like the luxury tax in baseball; you want to break the rules, then be prepared to pay through the nose and that money will be dispersed to others.

      Ray I

      Jul 12, 2012 at 1:24pm

      @ R U - the problem with your logic (although it appeals to the "easy solution" finders) is twofold: First, it is speculators who offer the majority of condos for rent in Vancouver. Production of condo units would shrink and therefore supply would shrink and rents would INCREASE if we limit buyers to citizens. Second, by restricting ownership would force non-citizens into the rental market further INCREASING demand and cost of rental units.

      Jonnie

      Jul 12, 2012 at 3:22pm

      We need more free housing for sensitive artist types!