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Municipal Election 2022: What candidates say they’ll do about the housing crisis

Metro Vancouver cities need more than 250,000 new home over the next decade. We look at the housing promises made by mayoralty candidates in the municipal election.

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While Metro Vancouver voters have made it clear in two recent polls that affordable housing is their top priority this municipal election, candidates are responding to this long-brewing crisis with platforms that range from ambitious to lacklustre.

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“When we look at polling, housing and homelessness are the top issue. And I think we’ve seen that build over the last number of municipal elections,” said Jill Atkey, CEO of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association.

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“But then, in terms of how candidates and parties are responding to that, I’d say it’s been a pretty mixed bag from what we’ve seen at this point.”

On the plus side, some candidates pledge to speed up permitting and expand density in traditional single-family neighbourhoods. And there is more debate about building townhomes and other family-friendly housing that falls between condos and detached houses.

“We’re having quite a real conversation about not just building new housing, but what form is that housing going to take? And where is it going to go? That’s certainly new for Vancouver, for sure. And then we see a little bit of that conversation happening in other municipalities as well,” Atkey said.

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But on the negative side, there’s not enough detail in most platforms about the proportion of rental vs affordable vs market housing, and there is very little discussion about ensuring new units will have enough bedrooms for families, she added.

Jill Atkey, CEO of the B.C. Non-profit Housing Association. Photo: Arlen Redekop
Jill Atkey, CEO of the B.C. Non-profit Housing Association. Photo: Arlen Redekop Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

These are important issues for this campaign. Statistics Canada said last week that B.C. has the highest rate of unaffordable housing in Canada, a financial challenge hitting a wide swath of residents, including young workers who can’t scrape together down payments, low-income renters, students, families, and those who are homeless.

A Sept. 8 poll by Research Co. found more than one-third of Vancouver residents ranked housing as their main worry, making it the No. 1 issue among voters. A Mustel Group poll surveying Metro Vancouver voters in late August had the same result.

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All cities in the region have a drastic shortage of adequate homes, according to their own “Housing Needs” reports — documents they produced last spring to project the amount and type of housing they require.

Postmedia analyzed the reports from 12 of Metro Vancouver’s biggest cities and found they need a combined total of more than 250,000 new homes over the next five to 10 years, to meet demand from both inadequately-housed residents and people who will move here.

Many candidates promise more housing, but the reality of getting it built depends largely on agreements made with private developers. The economy is another factor, as inflation has contributed to a drop in Metro Vancouver housing starts, which are down 41 per cent in the first quarter and eight per cent in the second quarter of 2022 compared to last year, according to the Urban Development Institute.

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Developers are also grappling with rising interest rates, which make it difficult to put together the capital needed for mega projects, said Nathan Lauster, an associate professor at UBC and an expert on housing.

It’s important, therefore, for candidates to clearly explain how they are going to make good on their housing promises.

“(Vancouver mayoralty hopeful) Kennedy Stewart, to his credit, has promised a very large number. But how is he going to do that? That’s where we’re still hoping to get more details coming,” Lauster said.

“Ideally, everybody should be looking for: If you care about housing, how are (candidates) going to make this happen?”

UBC associate professor Nathan Lauster in 2017. Photo: Gerry Kahrmann
UBC associate professor Nathan Lauster in 2017. Photo: Gerry Kahrmann Photo by Gerry Kahrmann /PNG

Some candidates say they can get homes constructed quicker by speeding up city halls’ approval of building permits and rezoning requests. Shortening these wait times would also reduce costs for developers saddled with higher borrowing rates, said Andrey Pavlov, a Simon Fraser University finance professor.

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“Anything that removes the current obstacles to housing supply, so that it becomes easier, faster and cheaper to build a lot more housing, that’s the only sustainable way to provide affordable housing in the long run,” Pavlov said.

Most municipal leaders say they will lobby provincial and federal governments for help, as city halls don’t have the tax base to build this housing alone. MLA David Eby, B.C.’s former housing minister who is now running to be the province’s next NDP leader and premier, promised this week that, if elected, he’ll fast-track affordable middle-class housing.

Candidates need to focus on bringing more affordable homes to their cities, experts say, so they don’t continue to lose young people, first responders, and employees for local businesses.

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Today, we explain the number of new units Metro Vancouver cities say they require, based on their “Housing Needs” reports, and we look at the housing promises made by the main mayoralty candidates in those municipalities.

The massive construction project at Oakridge in Vancouver. Photo: Jason Payne
The massive construction project at Oakridge in Vancouver. Photo: Jason Payne Photo by Jason Payne /PNG


86,000 existing households require better accommodations, 50,000 new homes are required over the next 10 years due to population growth, and 20,000 more units to address “unmet needs,” such as housing for families who are leaving the city for more affordable suburbs

Fred Harding (NPA): Wants to mandate maximum permit wait times to speed up building, and study areas where wait times are shorter such as North Vancouver City; set supply targets for housing based on immigration numbers, and “incentivize” the private sector to build this needed housing; enact “flat rate” community amenity contributions (CACs) to provide more certainty for builders, with lower CACs for rentals.

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Colleen Hardwick (TEAM): Commits to building 2,000 affordable co-ops on city land, and says the $500 million cost would be amortized over 30 years and covered by rent payments. The party also emphasizes consulting with existing communities when planning affordable housing, and vows to end “spot rezoning,” which will placate existing residents opposed to multi-unit buildings in their single-family neighbourhoods.

Mark Marissen (Progress): Promises 136,000 new market and social-housing units in the next decade and to create a city-owned agency to build mixed-income housing, requiring at least half the units to have two or three bedrooms. The party would expand zoning to allow six-storey rentals and four-storey strata throughout the city; create a city-run tent city with supports for homeless people until homes can be built, and raise funding with a luxury tax on the top one per cent of properties.

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Ken Sim (ABC): Doesn’t provide specific numbers, but for non-market housing promises to double the co-ops in Vancouver in four years, identify sites where developers can get density bonuses for affordable units, and pilot projects for youth and Indigenous. For market housing, Sim vows to speed up permits, use development fees to create rentals, and pre-approve five laneway house designs to speed up construction.

Kennedy Stewart, incumbent (Forward Together): Promises 220,000 new homes over the next 10 years, two-thirds rentals and 20 per cent “ground-oriented … for the middle class;” tough renter protections and vacancy controls for new rental units; to create “specialized project approval teams” to speed up decisions for large developments; keep the empty homes tax, and use part of the revenue for housing for vulnerable women and children.

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COPE (no mayoral candidate): The party’s focus is on protecting the existing rental stock and bringing in rent control to ban large hikes between tenancies, and therefore remove the incentive to evict tenants. Promises to build 5,000 low-rent co-op units every year, and modular housing for homeless people, with partial funding from a proposed “mansion tax” on homes worth more than $5 million that could generate $230 million annually.

OneCity (no mayoral candidate): Proposes rental buildings up to six storeys on side streets that mainly have single-family homes, with staff giving final approval to avoid public hearings that slow construction. Will support social housing to be built faster and higher than market buildings. Promises more multi-bedroom apartments; incentives to redevelop single family homes into multiplexes; a Land Value Tax to fund affordable housing.

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Vision (no mayoral candidate): Within 90 days of being elected, hold a vote on citywide zoning reforms to open up all neighbourhoods to low- and mid-rise apartments, and end public hearings for below-market and non-profit buildings; appoint a renters’ advocate to help with rental violations; reduce permitting delays, including guaranteeing a permit within three months for those wanting to densify a single-family lot.

Andrey Pavlov, a finance professor at the SFU Beedie School of Business. Photo: Stuart McNish
Andrey Pavlov, a finance professor at the SFU Beedie School of Business. Photo: Stuart McNish Photo by Stuart McNIsh/Special to PNG /PNG


41,200 new units needed over 10 years

Amrit Birring (People’s Council): Party platform says only that it would “confront rising housing costs — call out federal/provincial governments,” and Birring’s profile says he wants to defend “the right for affordable housing” but gives no specifics.

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Sukh Dhaliwal (United Surrey): Promises within 100 days of taking office to speed up development applications to just three days for renovations, three weeks for single-family homes, and three months for multi-family buildings, to be achieved by allowing architects and engineers to act as agents for people wanting permits.

Gordie Hogg (Surrey First): Lists 10 priorities under the platform section of his website, and the last one says “develop incentives to build more rental, affordable and accessible housing” but provides no other details.

Brenda Locke (Surrey Connect): The party website contains brief pledges to “decrease building permit times” and to “decrease backlog(s) in construction application requests,” but provides no specifics.

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Doug McCallum, incumbent (Safe Surrey Coalition): The party’s website has no housing plan beyond the promise to build “middle-class attainable housing.” Last week, McCallum promised to improve supply and affordability with the creation of an online system that allows residents “to choose a stock template of a house plan” and then get their permit in two weeks.

Jinny Sims (Surrey Forward): The party doesn’t mention housing in its “three major problems” to be fixed, but this week promised to “double housing approvals in our first two years,” in part by improving the development approvals process. The former NDP cabinet minister says she backs Eby’s plan to “incentiviz(e) low income housing and increas(e) rentals”.

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More than 18,000 homes needed over 10 years

Adel Gamar: The housing section on his platform page says “to be released soon.” He did not respond to a request for more information.

Richard Stewart (incumbent): Stewart says Coquitlam is seen as a “leader” in its response to housing challenges, and that his council’s 2015 Housing Affordability Strategy has created thousands of units, including in-fill housing, affordable homes, and purpose-built rentals. Says the city is in a strong position to partner with senior governments for future housing projects.

Condos under construction in Burnaby in April 2022. Photo: Francis Georgian
Condos under construction in Burnaby in April 2022. Photo: Francis Georgian Photo by Francis Georgian /PNG


Nearly 15,000 new homes needed over 10 years

Mike Hurley, incumbent: He will be acclaimed, as no one has challenged the one-term, independent mayor. As of February, Burnaby had 10,000 new housing units under construction. An official said the city can make about 20 per cent below market but could achieve more affordability with the help of senior governments.

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The city has three main political parties running candidates for council:

Burnaby Citizens Association: Promises to create a Burnaby Housing Authority to build and run rental units, improve zoning policies, and accelerate permitting approvals. Would require new developments to have 35 per cent two-bedroom units and 20 per cent three-bedroom units, and expedite family-friendly projects such as row housing, townhouses, four-plexes, and laneway houses.

Burnaby Green Party: “Increase affordable rental homes, co-ops, and innovative housing solutions” is the top item in the party’s platform, but no other details provided online.

Burnaby One: Pledges mandated wait times on new permits, with a maximum of three months for initial approvals for major developments; “flexible zoning and gentle density” in areas a 15-minute walk to rapid transit, including rentals below four storeys in residential neighbourhoods; up to six housing units per lot near transit, and up to four units everywhere else.

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Needs 9,200 new units over five years

Malcolm Brodie (incumbent): The 21-year mayor’s website lists his top priority as providing “affordable housing options for people of all ages and income levels,” but provides no other details. Says he has overseen requiring developers make 15 per cent of new units affordable; increasing rentals in new developments; and providing city land for affordable housing.

John Roston (RITE Richmond): Advocates for subdividing some large single-family lots into two; 80 per cent of units in new developments to be rentals within five years; a municipal housing corporation to oversee building rentals-geared-to-income, using senior government money on city land; reducing development charges and taxes on new rental buildings.

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Wei Ning Chen: In response to a request for a housing platform, he said by email that he supports building “more affordable housing” and reducing property taxes.

NORTH VANCOUVER District and City

Needs a combined 11,700 units over 10 years

Matthew Bond (District): The two-term councillor vows to increase housing diversity in all neighbourhoods; “modernize our 1965 zoning bylaw for the 21st century;” hold a design contest for energy-efficient home designs that would be free to use and get expedited permitting; and approve housing near transit and shops to avoid more traffic gridlock.

Mike Little (District incumbent): The two-term mayor supports “compact redevelopment,” including non-market housing near transit in town centres, and “limited growth in areas further away from major infrastructure.” Until senior governments improve transportation to the North Shore, he says the district must be “strategic” in its growth plans.

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Linda Buchanan (City incumbent): The one-term mayor promises to continue partnering with senior governments and others to create a range of housing options. Says her record includes delivering affordable housing, supporting financing opportunities for first-time buyers, stronger renter protections, and convening a group to address homelessness.

Guy Heywood (City). The former city councillor believes housing should grow “but not faster than the infrastructure that supports it or the time it takes to consult with the community.” Criticizes Buchanan for trying to get affordable units through deals with developers, and instead would support low-income people by funding social service agencies. 

Construction of a laneway house. Photo: Nick Procaylo
Construction of a laneway house. Photo: Nick Procaylo Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

LANGLEY Township and City

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Needs a combined 8,000 additional homes over five years

(Incumbent District Mayor Jack Froese is not running for re-election)

Rich Coleman (Elevate Langley, District): The longtime former Liberal MLA and cabinet minister provided few details but vows to streamline approval processes, have a diverse rental strategy that also “respects local communities,” offer affordable home ownership through innovation, and make it easier to use new construction technology.

Michelle Sparrow (District): The former district councillor pledges to accelerate permitting for affordable housing, and offer development cost waivers and other incentives for construction of rentals. Says affordable housing should be built on municipal and school lands, and local governments can provide 10-year property tax waivers for new rental housing.

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Blair Whitmarsh (District): The two-term district councillor says “smart development” with input from the community can accommodate the growth of more than 4,000 new residents a year in the district. Calls for faster timelines for the application process and sustainable, environmental development, with few other specifics.

Eric Woodward (Contract with Langley, District): The one-term district councillor’s party vows to “reform revenue from development for residents,” but doesn’t elaborate. There is little mention of housing, beyond a video promising to shorten wait times for building permits.

Nathan Pachal (City): The two-term councillor’s campaign emphasizes addressing homelessness, saying many people are trying to solve this crisis but the approach is too “piecemeal” and requires co-ordination. Promises to bring together partners, such as doctors, non-profits, and the province to ensure access to primary care and housing.

Val van den Broek (City incumbent): The one-term mayor lists the issues facing her city as “social, health, transportation and housing.” Her website says she “increased housing options” during her tenure, but does not provide details or indicate what her plans are for the next four years to address the housing crisis.


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Municipal Election 2022: What candidates say they’ll do about the housing crisis Source link Municipal Election 2022: What candidates say they’ll do about the housing crisis

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