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!