[Updated: 9 pm 14 March. See this CityHallWatch post for more recent comments and list of media coverage. ] Today, March 12, 2012, is the deadline for the interim report of the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability. Mayor Gregor Robertson announced the creation of this task force shortly after the November 2011 civic election.
Interim report: http://vancouver.ca/publications/pdf/mayors-taskforce-housing-affordability2012.pdf
Mayor’s statement is here.
Media mention of the task force has been quiet for weeks, but a web page appeared on the City website about March 5, mentioning the structure (Finance Working Group, Form Working Group, Flows Working Group, Partnerships Working Group, Design Working Group), members, schedule, and info resources. The working groups will work from early March through May, meeting bi-weekly. Public input is accepted from late March through May. The task force’s final report is due on June 30.
Globe and Mail reporter Frances Bula got the scoop on this story, with fresh information in her article late on March 11. She writes that the task force will be recommending “quick start” solutions today, such as row-housing ownership; the offering of city property to developers; accelerating the processing of development applications and building permits, etc. She quotes task force co-chair Olga Ilich as also looking at older co-ops and social housing to renovate and expand.
CityHallWatch is aware of several housing activists and academics who applied for positions on this body but were not accepted. Also, completely off the table so far is any discussion of the influence of international speculation on land prices in our region. It did not escape notice that Robertson and Suzanne Anton at a mayoral debate on housing affordability and homelessness before the election, when asked by the panel, declared that they would NOT look into speculation as a factor. Another critical aspect of land use is the existing zoned capacity. City Council last month instructed staff to provide this information, which will be useful in many ways for land use planning, including community planning processes about to begin in four neighbourhoods of Vancouver. Public statements about the task force have failed to mention this topic yet. Planning department staff should make this information available as soon as possible.
ACTION: Write Mayor and Councillors (firstname.lastname@example.org) urging your elected officials to ensure that any discussion about housing affordability also include a timely and meaningful review of (1) the influence of international property speculation on housing affordability in Vancouver, and (2) good practices in other cities of the world where policies have been adopted to deal international property speculation to make housing more affordable. If these topics are not to be addressed seriously by the Mayor’s task force, Council could seek an alternative paralle process to do so.
REFERENCES on property speculation:
- “Independent candidate Sandy Garossino targets international speculation as part of housing policy,” Georgia Straight, 4-Nov-2011) http://www.straight.com/article-524171/vancouver/independent-candidate-sandy-garossino-targets-international-speculation-part-housing-policy
- “Unaffordable–That’s What You Are” (Sandy Garossino on housing unaffordability)
- Nicole Foss – “Vancouver is approximately the largest housing bubble in the whole world”
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: The selection process for this task force appears to have been, in effect, on an invitation-only basis, and we noted that the city’s information staff and even the Clerk’s Office had a hard time answering questions on where applications should be sent on the deadline date of January 6, 2012. Media announcements about the task force were released directly from the Mayor’s office, but otherwise, no public calls for applications were made, it seems.
Also, given that Vancouver has the most expensive civic elections in Canada (per vote), and the largest source of funds for the two top parties comes from the development industry, civic groups have expressed concern that the mayor’s task force will repeat earlier examples of policy recommendations that benefit developers at the expense of communities. Independent commentary on the task force recommendations will therefore be important. The deadline for reporting of election campaign finances is about March 19, 2012.