Finally, A Housing Policy Worth Voting For!

September 29, 2022

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TEAM For A Livable Vancouver today proposed a $500 million City of Vancouver investment in affordable co-operative housing to create homes for over 4,000 people in up to 2,000 new units for all income levels, using City land for locations across Vancouver. TEAM mayoralty candidate and Councillor Colleen Hardwick said today that the proposal would be put to Vancouver voters in a mail ballot referendum within 18 months of taking office.

“This co-op housing proposal would be the single biggest increase in 100% affordable housing the city has ever seen at one time,” Hardwick said. “The $500 million expense would be amortized over 30 years and the co-op rents would recover costs to the City, while Vancouver would retain ownership of the lands and lease it out over a long term. Vancouver needs affordable housing – not expensive strata condos that ordinary people cannot afford, and not simply “market rate housing” or slightly below market rates that ABC’s Ken Sim and Forward Together’s Kennedy Stewart keep talking about – we need affordable housing for the missing middle and for working people who can no longer rent or buy in Vancouver.”

Professor Patrick Condon, Founding Chair of the UBC Urban Design Program, Faculty of Applied Science, said the TEAM proposal is a game changer for Vancouver.

“This is an innovative and practical proposal that could create affordable housing for thousands of Vancouver residents who have little hope of continuing to live in the city or see their kids and grandkids stay here,” Condon said. “It’s so important that a mix of our city, from the well off, to the middle class and the economically disadvantaged all live together in the same vibrant neighbourhoods across our city,” Condon added.

Colleen Hardwick noted that

“Our affordable housing plan is about giving people real hope about the future of living in our beautiful city – not the hype we hear from major corporate developers and other political parties that have simply failed over the past four years of skyrocketing rents and housing prices while prescribing more of the same but expecting different results. We need 100% affordable housing built as soon as possible and this plan will, with the support of Vancouver residents, create thousands of new homes for people who desperately need them,” she said.

Hardwick said that the ownership of these purpose-built rentals will remain with the city, providing a return to the ratepayers of Vancouver, as required by the terms of the Vancouver Property Endowment Fund. As this affordable housing comes online, rental payments will provide cash flow, enabling it to pay back the land leases over 35 years while providing cash for further development. 


Meet the TEAM team!

September 27, 2022

Council Candidates’ Forum

September 22, 2022

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Whose Community Is It?

September 21, 2022

As an architectural and social artifact I have no real issue with high-rise towers.

When I moved to Vancouver in 1979, I lived first at what was then the Plaza Hotel at the northern end of Lions Gate Bridge. I worked as a freelancer and so needed a corporation to invoice my services. My first company was called Twenty-Third Floor Productions, which accurately reflected the position of my apartment. I loved it up there. When North Vancouver became inconvenient for me commuting without a car, I moved to the West End and happily lived amid (though not in) the towering glass and concrete erections.  No, I have no issue with high-rise towers.

In fact, I have often said that if the residents genuinely approved 15-storey towers on every block on Commercial Drive, I would have no problem with that. I would definitely move because that’s not the Drive I want; but the point is that I will always support the right of the neighbourhood to make that decision.

From a planning point of view, I was deeply concerned in particular by the Boffo Tower proposal on Commercial Drive because of what the success of the developer against the expressed wish of thousands of local residents would mean for any concept of genuine neighbourhood control in the future.

It matters not whether we are talking about towers or townhouses or row houses or supported housing or a new transportation option or a change in the use of roads; the issue always comes down to where the power of approval lies.  Right now, the disproportionately asymmetrical power equation of developers + money + a developer-friendly City Council and Planning Department versus ad hoc volunteer groups trying to protect the right of the communities to choose means that the ability of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods to control their own affairs, in matters of zoning and streetscapes, business and housing, is slipping away at a fast and increasing rate.

It is vital that we re-establish the rights of the electorate by pushing powers down to the lowest, most local level.  In terms of municipal policy this means making “city-wide” policies subject to local opt-in or opt-out.  This would mean that the Interim Zoning policies enacted after the Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing, land use policies under Transportation 2040, and now the city-wide plans such as Broadway and Vancouver Plans currently being implemented and further devised by the Vancouver City Planning Commission would all be controlled and enacted — or not — by each neighbourhood in Vancouver.

This also means that regional groupings, such as the unelected Metro Vancouver, need to become operational liaisons only with no executive powers concerning local development, and certainly no authority to override neighbourhood decisions through Regional Context Statements and similar.  If necessary, the City of Vancouver should be prepared to withdraw from Metro in order to ensure this level of local control.

And we must oblige the Province to amend the Vancouver Charter so that we, the residents of Vancouver, have full control over the style of council we have, the financial terms under which elections are fought, whether or not we become members of larger groups such as Metro and Translink, and all the powers needed to ensure that we can at least address the pressing crises of unaffordable housing, homelessness, and the low salaries paid to Vancouver employees compared to other large cities in Canada.

In a Twitter exchange with me some while ago, Bob Ransford called “parochial decisions” and “endless debate” a problem.  No, it’s not a problem.  After so many decades of top-down control and crony management, parochial decision-making after legitimate local debate is exactly what we DO want, what this City needs.

Civic politics should not be about cult followings and strict ideological homogeneity.  It matters not that TEAM and I differ in some of the details of policy. What matters is it is TEAM and TEAM alone who understand that neighbourhoods are the vital partners in this enterprise of moving Vancouver forward, and it is only TEAM that will implement the processes of government that will strengthen that partnership.

On October 15th vote Colleen Hardwick for Mayor with a majority of TEAM Councillors!


A Reminder: Tonight’s Debate is Off

September 19, 2022

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For the last few weeks, volunteers from the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) have sought to put together a Mayoral Forum which was scheduled for 19th September at Britannia. It was to be an occasion for the people of the neighbourhoods of Vancouver to question the five leading candidates for Mayor specifically about community engagement, local development, housing affordability, and public safety.

Colleen Hardwick of TEAM agreed to attend, as did Mark Marissen of Progress, and Fred Harding of the NPA. I know CVN thanks them for their acknowledgment that ordinary residents are worth the effort of engagement.

However, both Kennedy Stewart of Forward Vancouver and Ken Sim of ABC decided they didn’t have the time or desire to speak with the people of East Vancouver and the other neighbourhoods. Even though they were given plenty of notice, they are probably too busy cozying up to their big developer buddies, planning the further ruination of our great city for the benefit of their well-heeled backers.

The rationale for the event was to listen and compare the five major candidates. With two of them refusing to attend, the rationale fails and so the event has been cancelled.

This is the second such opportunity to mingle with taxpayers Stewart and Sim have disdained in the last week. Twice bitten, forever shy, I say. The opportunity to show these characters the door once and for all occurs on October 15th, and you can do it with your votes. Take that opportunity and help free Vancouver from the clutches of the for-profit growth4greed mindset that has dominated our politics and created the affordability crisis for the last generation.

Only TEAM has the right people and the right policies to ensure that residents of Vancouver have the final say in how our city and our neighbourhoods develop. I urge all my readers to vote Colleen Hardwick for Mayor with a TEAM majority Council.


The Arrogance of Front Runners

September 12, 2022

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For the last few weeks, volunteers from the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) have sought to put together a Mayoral Forum which was scheduled for 19th September at Britannia. It was to be an occasion for the people of the neighbourhoods of Vancouver to question the five leading candidates for Mayor specifically about community engagement, local development, housing affordability, and public safety.

Colleen Hardwick of TEAM agreed to attend, as did Mark Marissen of Progress, and Fred Harding of the NPA. I know CVN thanks them for their acknowledgment that ordinary residents are worth the effort of engagement.

However, both Kennedy Stewart of Forward Vancouver and Ken Sim of ABC decided they didn’t have the time or desire to speak with the people of East Vancouver and the other neighbourhoods. Even though they were given plenty of notice, they are probably too busy cozying up to their big developer buddies, planning the further ruination of our great city for the benefit of their well-heeled backers.

The rationale for the event was to listen and compare the five major candidates. With two of them refusing to attend, the rationale fails and so the event has been cancelled.

This is the second such opportunity to mingle with taxpayers Stewart and Sim have disdained in the last week. Twice bitten, forever shy, I say. The opportunity to show these characters the door once and for all occurs on October 15th, and you can do it with your votes. Take that opportunity and help free Vancouver from the clutches of the for-profit growth4greed mindset that has dominated our politics and created the affordability crisis for the last generation.

Only TEAM has the right people and the right policies to ensure that residents of Vancouver have the final say in how our city and our neighbourhoods develop. I urge all my readers to vote Colleen Hardwick for Mayor with a TEAM majority Council.


Another Mayoral Forum

September 4, 2022

Speaking My Mind To The Georgia Strait

January 9, 2022

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One of our finest local reporters, Carlito Pablo, called me the other day for a new year’s catch up and to ask who I was supporting for mayor in the next election. I told him I was supporting Colleen Hardwick and TEAM because “She’s got the right ideas for city governance” including a bottom-up approach to neighbourhood consultation. She “understands that elected officials and the staff [of city hall] have to listen to the residents of Vancouver”.

The full interview can be found here.

The highlights of TEAM’s policies for the next election can be found at voteteam.ca.


TEAM Releases Policy Directions

December 11, 2021

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TEAM for a Livable Vancouver has revamped its website and, more importantly, issued its positions on a dozen of the most pressing issues facing Vancouver as we approach the civic election in 2022.

I support all of these policy directions and welcome their addition to the civic debate. However, as regular readers will know, my primary concerns are to achieve better local control of zoning and planning, and thus achieve a more equitable and affordable City for all the residents. I am pleased therefore to draw your particular attention to the Community Representation, Planning & Development, and Affordable Housing positions which, I believe, advance those causes in a positive and progressive way.

TEAM will be going into more detail on each of these policies as the campaign unfolds.

Having worked with TEAM for several months now, I am genuinely encouraged to be part of a group that stretches across the political spectrum, working with the single aim of improving our City and the lives of everyone in it.


Housing Unaffordability — Blame City Hall

July 20, 2021

One doesn’t have to agree with everything Councillor Colleen Hardwick says — nor even agree with her motives — to recognize that she has spent the last couple of years trying to get Vancouver City Council’s governance improved for the benefit of Vancouverites generally.

Eventually, we will get an Auditor-General in place (based entirely on her efforts) and, providing Vision Vancouver doesn’t rear its ugly head and bury everything again, I believe we will eventually get the true housing facts and figures that she has been demanding for over a year.

On the occasion of the City’s last Council meeting before the summer break, she has issued a statement that bears reading:

“City Hall’s addiction to the revenues generated by rezoning continues to inflate land values, it takes too long to get permits and applications approved, and City charges and fees can add $200 per square foot or more to building costs,” said Hardwick as Council’s Finance Standing Committee reviews the current Vancouver Plan planning process this week. “It’s also been more than a year since I asked city staff in council to provide updated housing data so we could actually make housing decisions based on real numbers and facts, and still, we have no data. Meanwhile the city has charged forward with development and planning policies based on aspirations rather than evidence.”

Hardwick says the city continues to make decisions that are making housing unaffordable, particularly when it comes to the constant rezoning that results in rising land values that push housing costs through the roof.

“The volume of rezoning under Vision Vancouver inflated the value of land and the air above it, and today’s council continues to take that same approach, to the detriment of people looking to buy a new home in their own city,” said Hardwick. “Frankly, the existing zoning in Vancouver is more than able to handle the real population growth expected in the future. But City Hall is addicted to the revenues that come with rezoning, and those extra costs are passed on to the homebuyer and pricing this city out of the reach of Vancouverites. If you’re buying a 1,000 sq ft condo you can expect that about $200,000 of the actual cost is directly related to City Hall. Meanwhile, everyone at City Hall says they are committed to affordable housing.”

Hardwick said that when you take the pricing inflation caused by rezoning and add in the growing number of city fees and charges around developments, plus the fact that permits and approvals can take four, five and six years, it’s easy to see why Vancouverites are finding it harder and harder to live in their own city.

“Politicians and staff at City Hall say they are all for affordable housing, but then they do anything and everything in their power to make it less affordable,” added Hardwick. “It reinforces my strong belief that City Hall views Vancouverites as ATM machines and there is no real interest at 12th and Cambie when it comes to making our city more affordable for Vancouverites.”

“If we really want affordable housing we need to focus on three things: sticking with existing zoning for a time, rather than more rezoning that continues to push up the price of land; reigning in and rationalizing the cost of development permits, building permits and community amenity charges, all of which add more and more costs to the final price of a home; and we definitely need to reduce the time it takes to approve projects, because, after all, time is money.”

I would also note that your property taxes are having to bear the burden of hundreds more highly-paid City staff that have been added to various departmental empires over the last decade, homelessness and opioid issues have ballooned over the same period with little hope of resolution under this regime, and both the mayor and senior City staff are actively working to reduce the ability of you — the voter — to affect City policy and development.

We have just over a year to the next election when we can dump the anti-people free spenders that are currently ruining our City. Please give it some thought.


The NPA Soap Opera Continues

April 7, 2021

Since I wrote my first thoughts back in January, we have had a few more months to see how the ground is being set up for the 2022 election. And, for the NPA in particular, these months have been eventful.

Discontent between the NPA Board and the elected NPA Councilors continued to bubble away, with the Twitterverse happy to replay over and over the hard-right credentials of the Board in contrast to the more liberal caucus. The Board seems to have decided to ignore any thought of an AGM for the party, and the preservation of their clique on the Board appears to be the sole factor in that decision. More dirty linen and a thick libertarian streak was exposed when a member of the NPA Board (or only very recently departed from the Board) chose to publicly and loudly refuse to operate his restaurant in line with medical regulations.

And then, yesterday, out of the blue it seems, the NPA Board announced that John Coupar had been selected to run as the 2022 NPA Mayoral candidate. No AGM, no transparent nominations, just a backroom deal done by a bunch of far right white guys.

I happen to have pressed for a decade or more for parties to announce their candidates early rather than leaving it to the last minute when people don’t have time to properly examine the candidates. I also happen to like John as a person; he and I have had a friendly if distant acquaintance even though our politics are miles apart. But…

This was an undemocratic coup. The Board was well aware that there were other candidates in the wings. But they didn’t care. This was a Situationist spectacle, designed to distract attention from the Board members’ backgrounds, to shut down debate before it could begin and specifically to exclude effective women who wanted their say in how their party and city is run.

Three of the four NPA Councilors issued a statement:

Not as strong as I would have liked to see. They were followed today by Clr. DeGenova who was even less satisfactory:

George Affleck, veteran NPA guy, wrote that:

With their decision, Coupar and the board have both ostracized and outed his caucus naysayers, which makes it easier not to have them as part of the NPA team in 2022, and made it clear to failed candidates like Ken Sim that this time the NPA is not messing around. Coupar’s sending a message that he should be the only centre-right candidate to focus on in order to beat the current leftist mayor, Kennedy Stewart.

Ken Sim seems to have deep-pocketed friends and I am not sure that this kind of bravado will scare him off. I suspect that the Board is counting on both Sim and the caucus failing to put together viable non-NPA tickets and organizations by 2022.

We look forward to the next thrilling instalment!