Too Much News: Provincial housing plans, city budget task force, forced decampment, and Horgan’s new job

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      Look, sometimes there’s too much news. I am but one person, and I cannot write it all, because then I would burn out and need a week off and we would be even more under-staffed. 

      So, here’s the quick and dirty on stuff you ought to know today. 

      Sweeping BC housing reforms 

      Premier David Eby announced a refreshed housing plan today that legalizes all secondary suites, allowing up to three or four units on single-family detached lots. 

      Homes for People promises $4 billion over the next three years and has four stated priorities: speeding up delivery, increasing supply of multi-unit housing, helping those most in need, and fighting profiteering. 

      “Simply put, we need to build more homes for people faster,” Eby said at a press conference

      Other big-ticket additions include a flipping tax to discourage short-term speculation—the less time you own a home for, the larger the tax will be when you sell it—and cracking down on short-term rental operators who don’t follow the rules.

      How the provincial government’s secondary suite legislation will deal with municipal legislation that bans second suites is currently unclear. It won’t have much impact in Vancouver, where city council is considering whether to allow up to six units on land currently zoned as single family residential. 

      Also in the plan is 3,900 new supportive housing units province-wide, part of its Belonging in BC plan to combat homelessness.

      BC says it is on track to deliver at least 108,000 finished or under construction homes by 2027-28, while also noting that at least 100,000 new people are moving to BC every year. 

      Affordability for rental units is not addressed beyond the previously announced $400 per year top-up, and the plan to build more units. Vacancy control—ensuring that landlords can’t jack up the rent on units between different tenants—is not being introduced, despite widespread calls for it from renters, anti-poverty advocates and researchers. 

      VPD to evict encampments on East Hastings 

      A City of Vancouver document leaked to the Stop the Sweeps coalition and PostMedia indicates that the Vancouver Police Department is going to escalate removing encampments in the Downtown Eastside. 

      The Vancouver Sun reports a two-stage plan has been drafted, involving “roving” teams of city engineering and VPD staff removing structures and giving residents seven-day notices to decamp as stage one. Stage two would involve a full-scale clear of all structures, with a “significantly larger” number of engineering staff and VPD officers. 

      The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing in Canada and the Canadian Human Rights Commission have both called for an end to police involvement in street sweeps. The city’s own Memorandum of Understanding on support for Unsheltered Vancouver Residents requires there to be appropriate indoor housing for displaced unhoused people, which is not laid out in the leaked report.

      “All we’ve been asking for is somewhere to go. Instead, they want us to disappear,” said Syn, a resident of Hastings Tent City, in a press release. “They need to work with us. Bringing in more police will just create more trauma.”

      People who live in tent encampments often say it is safer than living in shelters or SROs, which can have safety or accessibility risks. Stop the Sweeps are calling for evictions to be paused until there is enough suitable shelter for all residents to move into.

      Mayor’s Budget Task Force to recommend cost cuts 

      Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim has announced the Mayor’s Budget Task Force, a volunteer-based external group who are looking to “find efficiencies” and “potential new revenue” in the city budget. 

      “We owe it to taxpayers to ensure their money is treated with respect,” Sim said in a statement.

      The task force will include chartered financial analysts and chartered professional accountants, as well as former Musqueam Coun. Wade Grant, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade president Bridgitte Anderson, BC Ferries board chair Joy MacPhail, and ABC Couns. Lenny Zhou and Brian Montague. 

      The VPD, whose $390-million budget comprises 20 per cent of the city’s total budget, will be exempt from the task force.

      OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle said in a statement that looking for more cuts to city services was not the way forward. 

      “I think the scope should rule out cuts to frontline services, and look at ways to generate revenue to improve them,” she said. “You can’t build a great city for free. You need effective investment.”

      The task force seems in line with Sim’s campaign promises to run the city like a business, despite that not really being the way that government budgets work. This year’s budget delivered a 10.7 per cent increase to property tax, the largest in recent years, including three per cent specifically for VPD services.  

      John Horgan joins coal company board 

      Former BC Premier John Horgan has joined the board of Elk Valley Resources. It’s a subsidiary of mining giant Teck Resources Ltd, and will be focused on coal that’s used in steel production. 

      In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Horgan said there may be a “knee-jerk” reaction to the news. He insisted that metallurgic coal continued to be the best way to make steel. 

      Before becoming premier, Horgan served as the BC NDP’s mining and energy critic. 

      Teck Resources subsidiary Teck Coal was fined more than $16 million for exceeding pollution thresholds earlier this year. In 2021, a judge ordered the company to pay $60 million for contaminating waterways. In 2015, the company was found to have acted illegally in 79 per cent of inspections.

      Horgan told the Globe he would ensure the company meets its contractually obligated requirements to the environment, workers, First Nations and shareholders… so keep an eye on whether Elk Valley Resources gets fined for non-compliance.