Neighbourhood advocate Jak King has made up his mind about who he thinks is the best next mayor of Vancouver.
That would be city councillor Colleen Hardwick.
“She’s got the right ideas for city governance,” King told the Straight in a phone interview.
The longtime resident of Grandview-Woodland is part of TEAM for a Livable Vancouver, the new civic party of Hardwick.
King related that what attracts him most to Hardwick is that she “understands that elected officials and the staff [of city hall] have to listen to the residents of Vancouver”.
“She's a great believer in bottom-up ideas, and I think she will help strengthen the neighbourhoods to allow the neighbourhoods to have a much greater voice in city planning than we’ve had at least for the last 10 years,” he said.
Some have blamed neighbourhood associations for the supposed delay in the delivery of new housing in the city.
These critics often describe local residents as NIMBYs, after the acronym Not In My Backyard, which refers to community opposition to new developments.
“NIMBYs and YIMBYs [Yes In My Backyard, opposite of NIMBY], they’re just insulting names,” King said.
King said that people simply use those phrases in order “not engage in the conversation that they should”.
He said that it is “foolish to suggest that residents of the neighbourhood should have no say whatsoever in the way their neighbourhoods develop”.
“I know that there are parties like OneCity which believes that there should be just one neighbourhood in the city and that everything should be the same,” King said.
“That’s just nonsense to me.”
“I mean when I first came here in the '70s,” King continued, “the thing that attracted me to Vancouver was that this was a city of villages.”
“You know, Kits[ilano] from different from East Side, and East Side was different from Southlands etcetera etcetera.
“And I think that one of the joys of the city is that you can go from area to area and they’re different.”
“We don’t want them all looking the same. And I think it’s the local residents that should have a major say in how their neighbourhoods should develop,” King said.
King came from London to make a film in Vancouver in 1978.
He ended up staying for good.
Before settling in Grandview-Woodland since 1990, King lived in the West End.
“I was a Davie Street boy,” King recalled with laughter.
In Grandview-Woodland, King said that his neighbourhood “accepted change over the last 30 years”.
“But it’s been nice, gradual change,” he said.
Last year, King released a book that chronicled the community’s battle against city hall in the drafting of a new development plan for the East Vancouver area.
His book is titled Battleground: Grandview. An Activist’s Memoir of the Grandview Community Plan, 2011-2016 (The Drive Press, 288 pages).
Grandview-Woodland is bounded by Clark Drive, Nanaimo Street, East 12th Avenue, and Burrard Inlet.
“Developers push on us massive changes, which people object to,” King said.
“And I think if we have a better relationship between the neighbourhoods and the city where a real, genuine conversation can happen,” he continued, “that would help a lot.”
One of the things TEAM for a Livable Vancouver promises to deliver is affordable housing, whether it’s the ownership type or rental.
“There’s no point in building $2-million condos or $2-million single-family housing,” King noted.
On its website, the civic party states that there is a need for “building types that local people need and can afford”.
To illustrate by way of noting what’s going on, the City of Vancouver provides various incentives for developers of so-called “for-profit affordable rental housing”.
To qualify for these incentives, including exemptions from paying development cost levies, the starting rents for 2021 in these rentals, if these are located in East Vancouver are as follows: $1,653, studio; $2,022, one bedroom; $2,647, two bedrooms; and $3,722, three bedrooms.
On the west side of the city, where housing is more expensive, the initial maximum “affordable” rents set by the city are: $1,818, studio; $2,224, one bedroom; $2,912, two bedrooms; and $4,094, three bedrooms.
The city’s official profile based on the 2016 federal census shows that the median personal income in Vancouver is $39,000.
The accepted measure of affordability is 30 percent of income for housing costs.
Hence, applying this 30 percent standard, someone earning an income of $39,000 should pay only $975 for a one-bedroom unit or studio in Vancouver.
TEAM for a Livable Vancouver also promises to stabilize land values by “ending inflationary spot-zoning”.
“What we’ve seen is that the upzoning they’ve done over the last few years has done nothing but increase land values and that’s increased the unaffordability,” King said.
“We have to break that cycle,” he added.