Dear Prime Minister: Coalition writes on transit & housing ahead of PM’s Dec 17 meeting with Vancouver Mayor

CVN transpo letter_for the price of this, this, 14-Dec-2015Ahead of a much-anticipated Thursday, December 17, 2015 meeting in Vancouver between newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the city’s Mayor, Gregor Robertson, the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) has written to the PM regarding transit and housing infrastructure. Below are copies of the cover and main letter, provided here with permission.

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

Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods CVN header

December 14, 2015

Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Re: Federal Assistance for Vancouver Transit and Housing

Congratulations on your recent election as Prime Minister of Canada.

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods comprises twenty-five community residents’ associations within the City of Vancouver who collaborate on shared common interests. Some of the member groups have been around for over 50 years, some only a few years, but together we represent a broad cross-section of the Vancouver population, forming a coalition in 2013.

We note that the Federal Liberal Party platform included providing infrastructure funding for transit and housing. We heartily applaud these funding initiatives, which we believe are long overdue. However, we have serious concerns about how these funds may be implemented in the City of Vancouver. We therefore are asking that the federal government require conditions be met to address these concerns prior to approving federal infrastructure funding.

Attached please find a letter which outlines our concerns and suggestions in detail. Below is a summary of these concerns:

Transit and Housing Infrastructure

We are requesting that transit funding be conditional on citizen support for any transit and related land use plans. This also applies to the implementation of housing infrastructure funding.

We ask that the new Federal Liberal government:

  • require a full and transparent public process in the City of Vancouver to determine the most publicly supported option for rapid transit on Broadway before federal funding for transit is provided;
  • support more affordable transit options that provide broad distribution of benefits;
  • not use Public Private Partnership (P3) funding models;
  • not use development to fund transit;
  • ensure that land use patterns around transit, and for new social housing, are an appropriate fit and compatible with our community supported plans; and
  • extend co-op housing operating agreements that are now expiring.

Additional Requests for Federal Programs to Address Affordability

  • reinstate the RRAP program in which CMHC gave grants to low income earners for upgrades to older housing for health, safety and energy efficiency;
  • provide federal tax incentives for rental housing and for the retention of heritage homes; and
  • use federal powers to make housing in Vancouver more affordable for local residents through protection from an unregulated global housing market.

Please read the attached letter for further detail on the above outline.

We hope you will discuss this and the attached message with the Ministers of Infrastructure, Transport, and Environment, all of whom are receiving this same information package, to ensure our communities’ interests are represented. Please confirm receipt of this letter and let us know if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
Larry Benge, Co-Chair
Dorothy Barkley, Co-Chair

On behalf of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods

Member Groups of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods

  • Arbutus Ridge Community Association
  • Arbutus Ridge/ Kerrisdale/ Shaughnessy Visions
  • Cedar Cottage Area Neighbours
  • Citygate Intertower Group
  • Community Association of New Yaletown
  • Crosstown Residents Association
  • Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council
  • Dunbar Residents Association
  • False Creek Residents Association
  • Grandview Woodland Area Council
  • Granville Burrard Residents & Business Association
  • Kitsilano-Arbutus Residents Association
  • Kits Point Residents Association
  • Marpole Residents Coalition
  • Norquay Residents
  • NW Point Grey Home Owners Association
  • Oakridge Langara Area Residents
  • Residents Association Mount Pleasant
  • Riley Park/South Cambie Visions
  • Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association
  • Strathcona Residents Association
  • Upper Kitsilano Residents Association
  • West End Neighbours
  • West Kitsilano Residents Association
  • West Point Grey Residents Association

************* DETAILED LETTER *************

Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods CVN header

December 14, 2015

Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Honourable Marc Garneau, Honourable Catherine McKenna, Honourable Amarjeet Sohi,

Re: Federal Assistance for Vancouver Transit and Housing

Congratulations on your recent election as part of the new Government of Canada. We look forward to working with you to represent the interests of Vancouver communities in Ottawa.

What we are Requesting

We note that the Federal Liberal Party platform included providing infrastructure funding for transit and housing. We heartily applaud these funding initiatives, which we believe are long overdue. However, we have serious concerns about how it may be implemented in the City of Vancouver. We therefore are asking that the federal government require conditions be met to address these concerns prior to approving federal infrastructure funding.

Transit and Housing Infrastructure

We are requesting that transit funding be conditional on citizen support for the transit and related land use

plans. This also applies to implementation of housing infrastructure funding.

We ask that the new Federal Liberal government:

  • require a full and transparent public process in the City of Vancouver to determine the most publicly supported option for rapid transit on Broadway before federal funding for transit is provided;
  • support more affordable transit options that provide broad distribution of benefits;
  • not use Public Private Partnership (P3) funding models;
  • not use development to fund transit;
  • ensure that land use patterns around transit, and for new social housing, are an appropriate fit and compatible with our community supported plans; and
  • extend co-op housing operating agreements that are now expiring.

Additional Requests for Federal Programs to Address Affordability

  • reinstate the RRAP program in which CMHC gave grants to low income earners for upgrades to older housing for health, safety and energy efficiency;
  • provide federal tax incentives for rental housing and for the retention of heritage homes; and
  • use federal powers to make housing in Vancouver more affordable for local residents through protection from an unregulated global housing market.

 

1) TRANSIT:

Negative impacts of transit tied to high density transit-oriented development

The Metro Vancouver Region’s designation of major transit infrastructure routes as Frequent Transit Development Areas (FTDA) encourages, requires and supports extremely high density development. This is the city and region’s proposed direction for the area referred to as the Broadway Corridor from Nanaimo/Commercial Drive to UBC, 4th Avenue to 16th Avenue. While this plan would involve a radical transformation of the Broadway Corridor and affected neighbourhoods, public consultation has been minimal with community input not reflected in the plan.

The proposed first phase of development of the Corridor is identified to be a subway from Vancouver Community College to Arbutus Street. if the first phase is approved, the city has indicated it would also be looking at land use designations west of Arbutus to UBC in anticipation of a phase two extension of a subway to UBC. This will have significant impacts on neighbourhoods in and surrounding the Broadway Corridor without their support.

Under this scheme for the Broadway Corridor, the City’s Transportation 2040 policies and the KPMG report propose that development could be similar to that of the Cambie Corridor, on the Oakridge Mall scale (redevelopment approval added 11 towers up to 45 storeys in height) as a model for sites such as the Jericho Lands. This scheme would not be an appropriate fit for our neighbourhoods and, would destroy its existing character and not provide the kinds of medium density family-oriented housing that is so desperately needed in our city.

Worse yet is the very real possibility that neighbourhoods could be transformed by transit-oriented development and densification well in advance of transit infrastructure that may not be provided for decades, if ever. Meanwhile, intense levels of new development would add further congestion to the already severe impacts of UBC commuter traffic.

Amenities Starved for Transit Funds

Problems arise if subway funding is tied to a Public Private Partnership (P3) model, or if development is used to fund transit. These funding models would divert Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) paid by developers into funds that would pay for transit rather than for amenities for the community and its increased population. This is an unacceptable form of downloading the cost of transit onto cities and communities.

The Future of Transit

It is by no means certain that, in the long term, future transit systems will be dominated by large scale high cost projects. It is clear from the recent transit plebiscite that the public is fed up with continually paying for high cost transit, and is demanding more accountability.

Proponents of a Broadway Corridor subway would like to boil the choice of options down to efficiency and “megaproject” economic stimulus. However, the broader implications of competing public transit visions for Vancouver and its neighbourhoods are vastly more complicated and significant.

There are other options rather than promoting a nodal pattern of high-rise development through high-cost underground rapid transit on a single corridor. Some advocate for a high-capacity, at-grade transit network that is more evenly distributed and reinforces a pattern and scale of urban development that is more affordable, livable, socially productive and supports businesses on a broader city-wide scale.

Studies have shown that a more evenly distributed transit network is also more cost effective (see below results of a UBC- based study). These studies indicate that it is also vastly more sustainable from an environmental perspective to replace existing fossil- fuelled diesel buses with a combination of higher-capacity, zero-emission electric streetcars and articulated trolleybuses. The existing transit grid could have more frequent transit and expanded routes throughout the city and on key routes of heavy demand.

CVN transpo letter_for the price of this, this, 14-Dec-2015

Equivalent electric streetcar network deliverable for same cost of proposed Broadway Corridor subway (Condon, et al, 2008, The case for the tram; learning from Portland, Sustainability by Design – An examination of alternatives to an underground extension of the Millennium Line to UBC, Foundational Research Bulletin, No. 6.)

How This Affects Us

There is a real danger that our neighbourhoods, and in particular larger sites such as the Jericho Lands, could be planned and built based on an outdated approach and faulty assumptions. Many informed sources suggest that a nodal based approach to transit, based on transit megaprojects and high rise development, is probably not the way of the future as some have suggested.

The Federal Liberal Party platform said only that they would support “rapid” transit on Broadway, but rapid transit can take a variety of forms other than a subway. Rapid transit could instead be streetcars or rapid electric trolley buses, or other combinations of grade level transit at a fraction of the cost as noted in the example above.

2) HOUSING:

Social and Co-op Housing

The co-op housing projects built under CMHC programs were covered by operating agreements that provided federal funding supplements. Many of the operating agreements are expiring and need to be renewed to ensure ongoing public ownership and subsidized rents for the most vulnerable in our society. We understand that the new federal government is now considering these extensions and we strongly support this.

New infrastructure funding should be provided for new social and co-op housing projects subject to appropriate design controls to ensure that the size, scale and design elements are consistent and compatible with our local area plans and are community supported.

Reinstate the RRAP Program

In addition to funding for social or co-op housing, the federal government could reinstate the RRAP program in which CMHC gave grants to low income earners for upgrades to older housing for health, safety and energy efficiency.

Federal Tax Policies as Incentives for Rentals and Heritage Retention

Tax advantages are needed to encourage long-term ownership of lower-rent buildings and incentives for retention and upgrade of solid older buildings. This helps to reduce inflationary pressure on rents and loss of more affordable older rental stock.

As an incentive to retain heritage buildings only, capital gains tax laws should be amended, for up to two secondary suites on one house lot to be allowed to still qualify for principal residence exemption from capital gains tax as long as they are non-strata family or rental and the owner occupies the main unit. Perhaps long term owners could be allowed to also occupy one of the secondary units. This provides incentives for heritage retention while also encouraging more rental units and providing mortgage helpers to assist home ownership.

Protection from Global Housing Market

The purchase of housing is largely unaffordable for local residents in Vancouver. Action is needed to protect communities from an unregulated global housing market in which local residents are at an unfair disadvantage since local real estate is becoming disconnected from the local economy and work force. We ask the federal government to correct and better enforce tax and other regulations, as well as to create additional

preventative measures to protect the local housing market.

In Conclusion

This message is being delivered to the Prime Minister as well as the Ministers of Infrastructure, Environment and Transport. We hope all of you will discuss this letter and ensure our communities’ interests are represented. Please contact us with any questions or comments. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Member Groups of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods

  • Arbutus Ridge Community Association
  • Cedar Cottage Area Neighbours
  • Citygate Intertower Group
  • Crosstown Residents Association
  • Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council
  • Dunbar Residents Association
  • False Creek Residents Association
  • Grandview Woodland Area Council
  • Granville Burrard Residents & Business Association
  • Kits Point Residents Association
  • Marpole Residents Coalition
  • Norquay Residents
  • NW Point Grey Home Owners Association
  • Oakridge Langara Area Residents
  • Residents Association Mount Pleasant
  • Riley Park/South Cambie Visions
  • Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association
  • Strathcona Residents Association
  • Upper Kitsilano Residents Association
  • West End Neighbours
  • West Kitsilano Residents Association
  • West Point Grey Residents Association

3 thoughts on “Dear Prime Minister: Coalition writes on transit & housing ahead of PM’s Dec 17 meeting with Vancouver Mayor

  1. This is interesting and raises some important issues. However, the federal government looks at the region as “Vancouver” rather than just the City of Vancouver. So one of the key questions is if federal infrastructure money will go to transit projects or the $3.5 billion 10-lane replacement for the Massey Tunnel.

    Also, I’m a bit confused by the use of the word “streetcar”. It sounds like this proposal is for transit that is not at all rapid, in that it is often stuck in traffic. I know that this may not be the intent, but that is how it reads to me. A good transit network requires a network of transit lanes, and if you want good transit operating in dedicated lanes it would be a good idea to say so clearly rather than leave it open to interpretation.

    • Hi Eric.

      Yes it would be better if it was clear that surface transit would operate in dedicated lanes wherever necessary. In a few cases for a small percentage of such a system, say 41st avenue in Kerrisdale for example, lane separation would not be possible or advisable. For a few blocks yes it would slow down things…..but in commercial districts this is often a good thing, and the one minute delay well worth it for the sake of improved environment and transit accessibility. The Portland Max line has demonstrated that this can be easily done.

      Meanwhile I am so glad that the Coalition has written this. Congratulations.

      Patrick.

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