New legal action against City targets Vancouver’s new definition of “social housing”

City Hall Cambie sideThis article appeared in the Georgia Straight online today. Below are a few excerpts. Please click the link for the whole story.

City of Vancouver’s new definition of social housing facing legal challenge  (Carlito Pablo, The Straight, 8-Apr-2015)

The City of Vancouver’s new definition of social housing is facing a legal challenge.

According to a petition filed before the B.C. Supreme Court, the meaning of the term set out in a recent amendment made by council to the Downtown Official Development Plan (DODP) is “simply market rate rental housing”.

Market rate rental housing is not ‘social housing’,” the Community Association of New Yaletown asserted in court papers filed on April 2 by lawyer Nathalie Baker.

In its new petition, the group asked the court to declare the city’s definition of social housing “unreasonable” and “void for illegality”.

On March 26, council voted 6–4 after a two-day public hearing to approve the new definition. Vision Vancouver councillors Heather Deal, Kerry Jang, Raymond Louie, Geoff Meggs, Andrea Reimer, and Tim Stevenson were in favour. Non-Partisan Association councillors George Affleck, Elizabeth Ball, and Melissa De Genova and Green councillor Adriane Carr voted against. Vision mayor Gregor Robertson was absent.

Previously, social housing meant residential units bought by the government or a nonprofit using government funding in order to house seniors, disabled people, and low-income families or individuals.

Now social housing is defined as a building in which at least 30 percent of the dwellings are occupied by households that cannot afford market rates. In the Downtown Eastside, social housing has a slightly different meaning. It refers to a building in which at least 33 percent of units are occupied by people who are on social assistance or receive an old-age pension.

… “The definition results in large expensive market rate rental units being called ‘social housing’,” the association argued. This is because a whole building can now be considered social housing even if 70 percent of its units are market-rate rentals.

According to the CANY petition, the definition “does not fall within a range of possible reasonable outcomes”.

In  its petition, CANY asked the court to scrap this amendment, arguing that council can only regulate density through a bylaw and “cannot delegate this power to an unelected board, such as the Development Permit Board”.

CANY claimed that it’s an “unlawful delegation and is an evasion of the public hearing requirement” under the Vancouver Charter.

A comment to the article adds: One more shocking detail hidden in these DODP amendments: The City of Vancouver redefined the meaning of “social housing” to include bachelor suites renting for $912.50 per month. Is there any question who is benefiting from this?

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