Vancouver city council candidate defines how Colleen Hardwick’s TEAM is “not anti-development”

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      Param Nijjar is a Vancouver realtor and home builder.

      On October 15, his name will be on the ballot for city council as part of this year’s municipal election.

      Nijjar is running under TEAM for a Livable Vancouver, the party of councillor and mayoral candidate Colleen Hardwick.

      In an interview, Nijjar explained his party’s position about growth in the city.

      “TEAM is not anti-development,” Nijjar told the Straight by phone.

      That said, there is a distinction to be made.

      “TEAM believes in managing growth as opposed to promoting growth,” Nijjar said.

      He noted that city hall’s reliance on fees from development projects has led to a “growth-promotion model”.

      “That's unsustainable. That's bad for homebuyers, bad for tenants, bad for developers,” Nijjar said.

      Indeed, the city makes a lot of money from the development industry.

      City hall collects community amenity contributions (CACs), development cost levies (DCLs), and density bonus zoning contributions (DBZs).

      To illustrate, a city staff report to council states that $115 million in DCLs were paid by developers in 2020.

      The report also relates that DCL receipts over 10 years from 2011 to 2022 represent an average of 8.7 million square feet of developments annually.

      Moreover, the DCL program has generated a total of $1.1 billion, including accrued interest, over its lifetime from 1993 to 2020.

      CACs are in-kind or cash contributions made by property developers in exchange for rezoning properties for higher densities.

      A separate city staff report notes that the city in 2021 collected a total of $47 million in cash-in-lieu CAC payments and density bonus contributions.

      This is broken into $38 million from CACs in cash, and $9 million from density bonusing.

      Nijjar noted that TEAM’s mayoral candidate Hardwick has a background in urban geography and land economics.

      “Her voting position underscores the failed business model of growth promotion and CAC-revenue addiction at city hall,” he said.

      One may recall that Hardwick on June 22, 2022 voted against the Broadway Plan, arguing that it will make Vancouver less livable.

      Hardwick asserted that the plan, which provides more developments in four city neighbourhoods, will encourage land speculation, increase rent, boost housing prices, and lead to the eviction of thousands of tenants.

      Hardwick noted that real-estate companies have started advertising low-rise buildings as future sites for highrises in the area.

      She pointed out that the neighbourhoods along and near Broadway provide 19,600 rental units, representing 25 percent of the city’s total inventory.

      In addition, the area is home to 4,000 non-market housing consisting of social, supportive and co-op units.

      Nijjar also said that Hardwick has been pushing for “evidence-based decision-making rather than the aspirational numbers used by staff”.

      It may be remembered that Hardwick in 2020 called for a recalibration of the city’s housing targets.

      The Vancouver Housing Strategy provides for a goal of 72,000 new homes between 2018 and 2027.

      However, Hardwick noted that the historical growth in the city’s population requires only the building of around 30,000 additional homes in the same 10-year period.

      Nijjar trained as a software engineer at UBC, and he knows the value of data.

      He suggests that the city needs a housing dashboard that will provide online information to the public and policymarkers in a transparent way.

      The information will include, among others, existing homes, zoning capacity, and development permits in the pipeline.

      Nijjar also said that Hardwick “values neighbourhood input and decades of careful community planning work”.

      Nijjar said there is demand for homes, and TEAM seeks to “provide forms of housing that are done in a  nice, organic, democratic fashion that respects official community plans”.

      It’s an approach “where existing communities don’t have to be ripped out to plant high-rise buildings on them”.

      “Don’t get me wrong: there’s a place there’s a place for high rise towers as well,” Nijjar explained.

      He continued, “If the neighbourhood wants high rise towers and there’s genuine meaningful input from the neighbourhood, great, all the power for them.”

      Nijjar has been a realtor since 2007. He ventured into home building a few years later. One of his first projects was a laneway house at his parents’ home in East Vancouver.

      “Having been a home builder and a realtor, I’ve dealt with issues firsthand,” he said.

      Nijjar said that he has demonstrated his capacity to tackle “high-stress situations” in his professions, which he noted will serve him well as a city councillor.

      “That’s thanks to my yoga practice,” Nijjar noted.

      Now a father to a young boy, Nijjar came to Canada from India with his parents when he was 16.

      Nijjar said that he is running with a diverse team that represents a wide selection of skills and expertise.

      The TEAM slate for council includes Cleta Brown, Sean Nardi, Grace Quan, Stephen Roberts, and Bill Tieleman.

      Running for park board are Kathleen Larsen, Michelle Mollineaux, James Buckshon, and Patrick Audley.