More silence: Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency’s response on land speculation, housing market and vacancies

vancouver-affordable-housing-agency-logoThis is a follow-up to our CityHallWatch post on April 24, 2015, entitled “Complete silence: Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency’s response on land speculation, housing market and vacancies.”

Our hypothesis now is that Mayor Robertson and the regime at City Hall, including the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency, are trying their best to deflect attention regarding foreign money creating something “grotesquely wrong” with the Vancouver housing market, and attempt to redirect it to the provincial and federal governments. Meanwhile, try to create the appearance of trying to be doing something. Promises to do something about affordability may have been key for Vision Vancouver to garner the several hundred votes needed to barely squeak in with a majority on City Council in November 2014 – for the new four-year term. (Note that the Chief Election Officer has told us recently that her report back to Council about election issues is coming some time soon. Will it address our list of 25 irregularities and concerns?)

In our April 24 post, we reported on the complete silence from the head of the Vancouver mukhtar-latif-mrics, from Linkedin Sept 2013Affordable Housing Agency to our questions about what it was doing. Mayor Gregor Robertson garnered votes by announcing during election season in July 2014 that the new agency would “collect available data on issues such as vacant homes, and provide information on ways to limit investor speculation and unnecessary vacancies in Vancouver’s housing market.” We had written Mr. Latif and sent reminders to no avail. But two days after our post, CEO Mr. Mukhtar Latif had chosen the Georgia Straight to announce a new online system to report empty homes. A few days later, at last, he replied to CityHallWatch. We followed up immediately, the same day, on April 29 with questions including these:

Regarding [ways to limit investor speculation, research hub to monitor issues such as vacant homes and excessive investor speculation, or any “research hub” work relating to demand for property], do you have a work plan and timelines in greater detail than mentioned in the media, and if so, can you share that publicly?

We also asked who was actually on the interim board of VAHA, and how it was handling the procurement process for a consultant. Despite reminders, the response has been silence. We hope people at the affordable housing rally take note.

May 20, 2015
Dear Mr. Latif,
cc. City Manager

As nearly another week has gone by, I am resending this request.

Looking forward to your acknowledgement of receipt, plus a substantial response.

Sincerely,
R. Helten

*******

Thu, May 14, 2015
Dear Mr. Latif,

As two weeks have passed, I am resending this in the hopes you will acknowledge receipt, and answer the questions posed. To facilitate expeditiousness, I have extracted the questions here.

Regarding the consultant being sought, we have asked the City for a copy of the Request for Proposal but have not yet received a reply. Is that procurement process under the City of Vancouver? Or is it handled directly by VAHA as a quasi-independent body? If handled by the City, why is it not posted online pursuant to standard practice? If not being handled by the City’s Supply Chain Management Department, how will it be handled? May we receive a copy of the RFP documents?

Regarding the interim board of council-appointed City representatives, might we ask you to go as far as actually naming who they are? (I.e., Who are they?)

Regarding the aspects bolded [ways to limit investor speculation, research hub to monitor issues such as vacant homes and excessive investor speculation], or any “research hub” work relating to demand for property, do you have a work plan and timelines in greater detail than mentioned in the media, and if so, can you share that publicly?

Best wishes,
R. Helten

*****************

Wed, Apr 29, 2015
Dear Mr. Latif,

Thank you for your response. The news now in the media is very helpful.

Yes, we did notice the media coverage of your internal memo starting with a story online by Charlie Smith. (As an aside, we are curious about that process — an internal memo apparently leaked to one select media outlet, soon picked up by others, then hours later the actual memo was posted on the personal blog of one City Councillor. But no official release of the document was made by VAHA or the City of Vancouver. Is this pattern going to be VAHA’s public communication process from now on, or is that an anomaly?)

Regarding the consultant being sought, we have asked the City for a copy of the Request for Proposal but have not yet received a reply. Is that procurement process under the City of Vancouver? Or is it handled directly by VAHA as a quasi-independent body? If handled by the City, why is it not posted online pursuant to standard practice? If not being handled by the City’s Supply Chain Management Department, how will it be handled? May we receive a copy of the RFP documents?

Regarding the interim board of council-appointed City representatives, might we ask you to go as far as actually naming who they are?

Finally, referring back to the July 2014 statement from the Mayor’s Office: VAHA will provide information on ways to limit investor speculation and unnecessary vacancies in Vancouver’s housing market. … “As well, by designating it as a research hub to monitor issues such as vacant homes and excessive investor speculation, the VAHA will contribute to an informed, fact-based discussion of Vancouver’s housing market.”

We see the issues of housing affordability as being related to both supply and demand. The City’s emphasis has been on supply, but it appears that with the global capital seeking security and highest returns, there could be virtually infinite demand (relatively speaking, for our finite amount of land). Regarding the aspects bolded above, or any “research hub” work relating to demand for property, do you have a work plan and timelines in greater detail than mentioned in the media, and if so, can you share that publicly?

These are a lot of questions, but we would appreciate any response, as best you can manage with the other demands on your time.

Sincerely,
R. Helten
CityHallWatch Media Foundation

*******

Apr 29, 2015, Latif, Mukhtar (VAHA) wrote:

Dear Mr Helton

My apologies for the delay in responding.

You will have read in the media that we are in the process of appointing a consultant to help us quantify the number of vacant homes in Vancouver and identify the possible causes.

With regard to the Board Directors for the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency, we have an interim board comprising of council appointed City representatives and we will be coming to Council soon with the shortlist for the external directors.

Kind regards
Mukhtar Latif
Chief Executive Officer
Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency

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