Mayor Task Force Housing Affordability

(This version: 13-Oct-2012) Announcement —
Forum: “The Future of Vancouver” Community Issues Forum
When: Saturday, October 20, 2012, 3-5 pm
Where: St. Patrick Parish Hall, 2881 Main Street
What: A major topic will be what City Council has adopted on October 3.
https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/cityhallwatch-future-of-vancouver-oct-20/

This page will consolidate critical information for the public on the implications of the Final Report of the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability. The report was made public on September 26, 2012, allowing only three business days before City Council heard the report on Tuesday, October 2. Council heard speakers on October 3, and adopted most of the Task Force recommendations, with a few tweaks. CityHallWatch covered the story extensively in several posts (see our top page to read), and was the first to publicly provide a visual map of the impact zones of the Task Force’s proposed rezoning policies up to 3.5 and 6 storeys across large tracts of the City.

CityHallWatch is considering public responses. From the very selection process of Task Force members, the entire process failed to enable meaningful public consultation (e.g., see appendices of NSV letter to Mayor on Sept 26). We’ll show why this is true, and what are the real implications of this Task Force recommendations. Stay tuned.

Are we witnessing some manufactured consent? Mainstream media heavily dependent on real estate advertising are largely uncritical of the process and outcomes. Also, one wonders if consultants commenting publicly have a bit of a conflict of interest — anything critical could affect their future contracts and stature in the planning world.

Conspicuously absent from the Task Force report is a map of the city showing implications on our neighbourhoods. For example, no clear display of “arterial” roads on a map. Also absent is objective and quantitative analysis of what the Task Force recommendations will actually do to make Vancouver affordable — costs and benefits. Where is the formal academic peer review and debate by independent thinkers who do not stand to gain by the policy changes? With the Conference Board of Canada saying Vancouver housing prices may drop 40%, what are the implications of the massive rezoning and policy changes recommended by the Task Force?

Also, Councillor Raymond Louie said this at the Sept 19 Committee meeting (on the motion by Councillor Carr to get more information on City revenues and costs related to $1.1 billion in development permits): “If we were to build out all the existing capacity, allowed through policy in zoning, then it would essentially cover growth expectations generally within our city.” It appears he is saying that existing zoned capacity is enough to cover growth. In effect, is he saying that there is no dramatic need for rezonings for the City to grow?

TIDBITS AND THOUGHTS

  • The Vision Vancouver office this week is reportedly making calls to poll people on support and ask for donations, testing the waters.
  • The process of adopting the Task Force recommendations appears similar to the Short Term Incentives for Rentals  program — Private discussions with development industry, lack of public consultation, adopting of policy that overrides existing zoning guidelines and enables spot rezonings, vagueness of language allowing maximum freedom for council to later ram decisions through. Bottom line is this Council is eroding public access to decision-making, while promoting profits for private interests. Generalities at the policy time get slipped through Council. Then the specifics result in major disruptions when rezoning and development proposals come through.
  • Not even the Vancouver City Planning Commission (VCPC), the city’s advisory body on planning and development, had a chance to see and comment on the Final Report of the Task Force. The report was released on Sept 26, the same day as the last VCPC meeting before Council was expected to adopt the report (Oct 2).

APPEAL FOR ACTION: We call upon independent urban planners, academics, and analysts over the next couple days to review the report and share their thoughts online — in whatever forum you prefer. Modelers are asked to show graphically what the Task Force implications would be on  map of Vancouver.   For CityHallWatch you can add comments below, or e-mail us at citizenYVR [at] gmail.com.

MEDIA

Most media are simply repeating material from the task force report and Mayor’s press conference. Search news.google.com and use key words Vancouver Task Force Housing Affordability for examples. But some independent media and bloggers are beginning to analyze the report and its implications. A separate post on CityHallWatch summarizes previous media coverage.

  • Baker on Vancouver (28-Sept-2012): “Vancouver does Affordability” Excerpt – Both local government parties in Vancouver are owned by the real estate industry…. The first recommendation of the City Manager is that Council should immediately implement the Committee’s action plan by spot zoning large chunks of the residential areas of the City.
  • Rabble.ca and The Mainlander (28-Sept-2012): “Mayor Gregor Robertson uses Affordability Task Force to deregulate and privatize Vancouver housing”

LINKS

VIDEO

Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver, please remember this video below. Have you been completely co-opted by your political donors in the development industry? Look at what you said just days after being elected in 2008 on a campaign against EcoDensity and respect for communities and bottom-up planning. The recommendations of your politically-appointed Task Force of industry representative are actual Super-EcoDensity, cloaked in the language of “affordability.”

(Vote in The Province online poll: http://blogs.theprovince.com/2012/09/26/editorial-dense-and-denser-rule-at-vision-vancouvers-city-hall/)

3 thoughts on “Mayor Task Force Housing Affordability

  1. Whatever happened to the City counsellor request to City Planning to review the present zoning regulations to estimate the population that Vancouver could support without changes? That request was made during the previous administration and has, as far as I know, never been answered. How can one contemplate changing the rules without knowing what the present rules will provide?

    • Great question, HK. City Council and staff are trying to bury this topic. Last we heard, from a planner, is that the info will be provided in a closed briefing to Council this fall — and the public may never get to hear the numbers. But existing zoned capacity was discussed in passing, in Council on Sept 19, 2012, in context of Clr Carr’s motion (Sept 18) on $1.1 billion in development permits. Amazingly, Clr Raymond Louie apparently spilled the beans. He said, on video, “If we were to build out all the existing capacity, allowed through policy in zoning,then it would essentially cover growth expectations generally within our city.”

      It appears he is saying that existing zoned capacity is enough to cover expected population growth. In effect, it seems he said there is no dramatic need for rezonings for the City to provide space for growing population — existing zoning can accommodate it — if built up to the limits. Yet the Task Force recommendations are for continuation of major rezonings to increase density.

      Is this contradiction the reason staff are withholding info on existing zoned capacity?

      Carr’s motion text says this: “Metro Vancouver’s 2040 Regional Growth Strategy projects that Vancouver’s population will increase by 148,800 by 2041 (approximately 50,000 more people every decade).”

      Assuming those numbers are correct this means a projected population increase of less than 50,000 people for all of Vancouver, PER DECADE.

      ACTION: Public pressure is needed to get City Hall to reveal the honest numbers on existing zoned capacity in Vancouver neighbourhoods.

  2. Dear Council,

    If enraging every resident in Vancouver is what you are after, driving more and more people out of the city and alienating those who remain, busting up our last neighbourly communities, and spiking Vancouver’s true carbon footprint to the highest in Canada, then keep it up.

    The plain facts are clear: you do not care a hoot about affordability, since if you did, you would certainly start by defining it.

    Council’s refusal to reference a single definition of housing affordability in four years is absurd and patently illegitimate, especially when the City Manager, with no Council guidance, is licensed to decide what it is and what it is not (viz. STIR). Indeed affordability is a policy question, not a bureaucratic one. Its definition is also well known, and WE all know it. But, you’ve never shown you care, and housing prices today are proof positive of a studied ignorance. Ignorance, or a perverted intent to deceive?

    On the question of land value inflation, currently the single biggest contributor to housing cost inflation, do you not think that rezoning almost the entire city to higher densities won’t exacerbate this? If nearly every home can now be ripped down and replaced with 2, 3, 5, or even 10 closet-sized apartments, what economist alive would argue that the inherent land value under all these soon-to-be scrapped homes would not be significantly higher, and in fact by multiples of 2, 3, 5, or even 10. Hong Kong housing prices, you are so yesterday!

    Of course now every home in Vancouver will have to come down to realize this new fully-rezoned (“re-policied”?) city, at 40 to 60 tonnes of waste per demolished home. No impact on the municipal waste-stream, will there be? No impact on future rainwater permeability, eh? The carbon or any other ecological footprint of the new construction will never be assessed, in part since none of the cement or any other building material is made in or sourced from Vancouver…and who’s counting anyway.

    Someone is: the residents of Vancouver as supported by such local heroes as the LCA team at UBC and many other area and global planning, building, and development technologists. They are all laughing, and crying! But few will admit this to your face. They know you won’t listen, and some want a piece of the only work left in Vancouver. All other gainful employment has been crowded out by the high cost of living and high rents.

    But you who refuse to consider the horrible cost to society of over-zoning its buildable land and causing the greatest housing bubble crash that history has ever known, need to consider how you will face the voters in just two years, when Vancouver’s credit rating will be in free-fall, just like that of Spain, and for the identical reason: a single-minded unproductive investment in housing.

    We will know who to blame. ALL of us will know, renters and owners alike.

    Prices of new construction, for sale or lease, will only fall after bankruptcies force property into receivership, and that will take years, if not decades. The City will struggle to collect taxes. Meanwhile people will flee the city in droves as property taxes are forced also to double to cover the infrastructure debts and deferred maintenance this Council has piled on, and these taxes will of course increase the cost of living here, especially for our seniors, some of whom will have lost their largest retirement asset…thanks to you.

    We will inaugurate a special day to remember the “Vision” that went terribly wrong. Maybe that day will be October 2, every year, forever. Today is already International Day for Non-Violence, and it’s fitting that this violent act against the residents of Vancouver might be committed today.

    But that is still your choice.

    Refer the report for review by a librarian, to look up the definition of affordability, and an ecological economist, to point out simply that the emperor is not only wearing no clothes, but also taking a dump in our lettuce bed.

    The lesson: the politics of a sham is lifelong shame.

    Are you all ready for that?

    Randy Chatterjee
    no longer of Vancouver, BC

    PS – I am 100% opposed to Council receiving, let alone, adopting this report from the so-called “Housing Affordability Task Force.” 100% means completely and totally. No prevarication. A check box in the “opposed” category, please. And I will hire an auditor to ensure my vote is correctly categorized, because the only “trust” in Vancouver is verifiable and verified. Thank you.

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