Further to our article “Report/update on DODP Public Hearing (resumes 6 pm today): “Social housing” definition change could be devastating,” here is a report of the SECOND night of the Public Hearing on March 26, from a kind citizen who observed the entire thing. People concerned with the issues may find this information useful.
City website video clips of Public Hearing:
- March 24, first night http://civic.neulion.com/cityofvancouver/index.php?clipid=3494196,000
- March 26, second night: http://civic.neulion.com/cityofvancouver/index.php?clipid=3494348,000
There were no surprises when the votes were counted. All six Vision Vancouver members of Council present that day voted in favour of a slightly-amended motion, while one Green and three NPA councillors voted against. Six to four. Carried.
However, the comments made before the vote was taken, were informative.
David McLellan, retired deputy City Manager, spoke in favour of the proposal by stating that implementing the new definition of “social housing,” is the only way social housing will be built in the absence of funding from senor levels of government.
Joan Seidl, an administrator at Jubilee House, broke into tears as she stated that on behalf of the tenants, the work on their new homes has to resume. The new definition of “social housing” and “social housing” buildings suited her tenants and she did not express any concerns about other groups of residents who might be disadvantaged by implementation of these new definitions. When asked if staff from Jubilee House had consulted with CANY and other groups of neighbours, her response was “we went to all the Open Houses.”
She stated that public consultation process had been adequate. The City had kept the Jubilee House tenants and staff well informed throughout the process.
Jon Green and Kerry Corlett of CANY both spoke about the lack of public consultation and that one Open House followed by a Public Hearing, five days later, should not be considered as adequate public consultation for residents who live outside of the DTES and the West End.
A downtown resident who teaches in the UBC Faculty of Engineering, reviewed the Staff Report from the perspective of comprehension, and stated that one would require a doctorate to be able to understand the technical content.
Jim O’Dea’s comments were informative from two perspectives. He explained in more detail why the new definition of “social housing” might work based on past non-profit housing patterns. His comments also reflected attitudes expressed by supporters of the Jubilee House proposal. The definition of “social housing” accommodates the need of our tenants and “we” really have not thought more deeply about the other implications of the DODP proposal for other groups of neighbours or other Vancouver neighbourhoods.
Mr. O’Dea has been working in the “low income” housing sector on a non-profit basis for forty years.
His first point was that the new definition of “social housing” is the type of flexible definition that is required to provide real “social housing” units. Those who work in the non-profit sector make the “low income housing” spectrum work for everyone. If the definition is “tightened up” this will make it more difficult for developers to build. Let the developers have their density bonuses and “we” in the non-profit sector will do the other part of the “social housing” job. “What “we” do for a living in the non-profit sector is make the low income end work for everyone.”
His second main point was troubling from a balanced planning perspective (where perspectives of other resident groups should also be considered).
In his opinion, the document is easy to understand. You just have to read three main points in the policy statement. This is all you need to know. The other “legal stuff” is not important. You should trust the City’s legal department and believe that they have interpreted the law accurately. What is difficult to understand? It does not matter if the building is called a “social housing building” with market housing as the main part of the “mix.” If you want “social housing,” this type of “mix” is required, and it is necessary to build high in order to build enough market units that will subsidize the “lower income” units.
When Councillor Carr asked him if current economic circumstances would make it more difficult to provide actual “social housing” by using the new definition, when compared to times past where there was funding from senior levels of government, Mr. O’Dea did not have an extended response. He stated that it could be “tight” but it might be “doable.”
Alan Albert of CANY was the last speaker. He began by stating that he too felt like crying because the stress of having to go to court in order to get detailed information about the two projects had been stressful for him and his family.
Mr. Albert also stated that members of CANY had consulted with many of their neighbours who live in social housing units other than Jubilee House. The majority of them do not support the new definition of “social housing” or the fact that they were not part of a public consultation process. He revealed that Jubilee House staff members did not consult with their neighbours.
He stated that the legal and technical parts of the Staff Report cannot be ignored. The law does matter and all residents should be able to understand from content in the Staff Report, what their community could look like if all the different parts of the DODP proposals are implemented in their part of the downtown.
In her concluding remarks, Councillor Ball stated that residents did not have enough time to absorb the technical content, and how could they possibly understand what they are reading when one definition was used three different ways throughout the Staff Report.
This Public Hearing sets the Vision Vancouver record for “fast tracking” a public consultation process. Residents in a downtown neighbourhood were expected to absorb details from two Plans developed outside of their neighbourhood, after attending one Open House, and then, a Public Hearing five days later.
Vision Vancouver offered the same type of consultation process as was offered in the West End, but, over a much shorter time.
When City staff engaged in a public consultation process for the West End, they communicated with mainly West End special interest groups over 18 months. They undertook the same type of consultation process with Jubilee House staff and tenants over a similar time period. After the other neighbours left out of this “communication loop” went to court and “forced” a DODP Public Hearing, the public consultation process did not improve.
The public consultation attempts reached a larger number of people the second time around, but over a much shorter time period. Sending notification cards to more households is not a substitute for spending more time to schedule meetings where groups of neighbours are given time to learn about proposal content.
Between the “fu….. NPA hacks,” “democracy cubed,” and the DODP Public Hearing, there is a great deal of taped empirical evidence to support observations made by hundreds of residents that the public consultation process is flawed. Special interest groups in support of political targets are favoured at the expense of everybody else.
One of Mr. Stevenson’s closing remarks “speaks volumes” about an approach to public consultation based on disrespect for the process. He mentioned that one of the ordained Anglican ministers who spoke on March 26th never goes to public hearings. The fact that he showed up to say anything means that supporting this proposal is a “good thing.”
The comments offered by this individual are not recorded above because he said nothing other than ” social housing is needed so that our Church can continue to support the 127 Society for Housing..”