Housing Action for Local Taxpayers (HALT): New group seeks real estate reform, accountable politicians

HALT logo Housing Action for Local TaxpayersThe Globe and Mail reporter Kerry Gold introduced a new group to the Vancouver real estate debate through her article “Citizens’ group rises up for Vancouver real estate reform“on July 15, 2016. Below are some links, information from their materials online, and excerpts of Ms. Gold’s article. HALT members are going out into the city actively to spread information and collect signatures. See their Facebook page for the next location and time.

Their purpose is “to hold our politician’s accountable for the lack of housing affordability for local renters+owners” (Facebook). “HALT is a non-partisan community action group demanding that all levels of Canadian government address our current foreign money fuelled housing crisis” (website).

WHAT HALT BELIEVES:
(from website)

  • The BC government is avoiding the elephant in the room by focussing on peripheral issues rather than root cause, which is the unchecked flow of foreign capital fuelling our unsustainable housing crisis.
  • That the BC government is conflicted in their interests as they are financially backed by numerous developers and real estate companies. Their campaign fundraising manager is Bob Rennie, “the condo king”, who believes that all the answers are in building more condos and guess what, he does not believe foreign capital is an issue. Wonder why?
  • That “it’s not supply, stupid!”. The emphasis on supply as the answer serves the developers, but development has been happening at a record pace, so if supply was the answer, we wouldn’t be having this problem today. Condos tend to replace more affordable housing and many are sold to offshore buyers anyway. New supply is even sometimes marketed offshore before being made available to local buyers. The recent trend in house prices in Vancouver moved lock step with the devaluation of the Canadian dollar.
  • That this housing crisis is driving people out of Vancouver and that this impacts the diversity and richness of our city by making it impossible for people of varying income levels to afford to live here.
  • That this is an economic problem and not a racial problem. This issue impacts everyone in Vancouver and HALT rejects the smokescreen of racism to try to curtail conversation about addressing this problem which impacts everyone.

PETITION
HALT has a petition addressed to the Premier of British Columbia, entitled “Get foreign capital out of Vancouver Housing.” (477 signatures as of today, July 21)
https://www.change.org/p/christy-clark-get-foreign-capital-out-of-bc-housing

LINKS

Website: haltvancouver.org
Twitter: @haltvancouver
Facebook: HALTVancouver

COVERAGE

“Citizens’ group rises up for Vancouver real estate reform”on July 15, 2016
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/vancouver/citizens-group-rises-up-for-vancouver-real-estate-reform/article30937362/

  • Excerpts:
    Like a lot of people, Justin Fung is fed up with Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis. So he harnessed that anger into the formation of a non-partisan group called Housing Action for Local Taxpayers.
  • On Friday afternoon outside the Vancouver Art Gallery he and other HALT members spread the word to the public, that they need to pressure government to address continued offshore demand for real estate. They have started a Facebook page, a petition, and they have plans for a rally.
  • The group of random strangers came together when they realized they shared a common goal: to raise awareness about the housing crisis, and to push for policy that protects citizens who live and pay taxes in B.C. Mr. Fung is also calling for the collection of data, and for a ban on corporate and union donations to political parties. B.C. is one of the few provinces that allow such contributions.
  • “The reason I’ve been so adamantly a part of this group is to shine a light on this, to say [to government], ‘What you guys are doing is wrong. It’s corrupt. You’re not looking out for citizens.’ Also to be a voice of a lot of that anger, and to make sure our voices get heard.
    “I feel like the frustration has really boiled over. I don’t think there is any sane person not upset, who’s not in the real estate industry.”
  • … HALT blames the government for failing to represent its tax-paying citizens. They say the province doesn’t look at where foreign investment is coming from, and whether the buyers are also living and working in Canada, and paying taxes.
  • .. Fenella Sung, who’s part of another group, Friends of Hong Kong, says she wants to protect the city she’s now devoted to since moving here 26 years ago from Hong Kong. Like Mr. Fung, she too sees the problem as an overreliance on offshore money. Canadian citizenship has become less about forging bonds with the community than about a business transaction…. 
  • … “There has to be an objective way to talk about this without accusing people of racism. It’s incredibly offensive. Why would anybody want to be engaged in local politics if they are going to be branded a racist?” This past week, Mr. Fung also addressed media reports that said the blaming of offshore buyers for contributing to the crisis was racially motivated.

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