Vancouver Elections - Time to look beyond party labels
Hoping to take our city away from developer control, last October 2018 we elected progressive candidates, among them NDP- and Green Party-backed figures. Unfortunately, we have not seen a concerted push from the left on Council to counter the undue influence of real-estate speculators on city development.
To the contrary, our current city council has prezoned huge areas of the city. In addition, legislation has been introduced and policies have been adopted to allow developers to obtain permits faster and without the encumbrance of public hearings.
These coming municipal elections, we need to question union or political-party endorsements before following suit.
We need to work towards electing those individual candidates who are free and bold enough to orient the city away from the current free-market style of development.
We must make sure that before approving any rezoning application, City Council knows where the money comes from for the proposed development. This practice is essential to avert the landslide of illegal money that is plaguing Vancouver’s real estate market and increasing the price of housing.
Vancouver needs a rezoning process whereby the approval of rezoning proposals is not done by the City Planning Department or on its sole recommendation. The City Planning Department – an unelected body which under this Council has given special access to developers – should not be the decision-maker but a body that works under and for the councillors and for the community as a whole.
The City of Vancouver has been moving to reduce public input as much as possible. We need to reverse that. We need a city council that does not impose massive changes on neighbourhoods, but that, instead, considers them an essential participant on city development: from the formulation of neighbourhood plans or visions to the implementation of these plans.
Single family housing is not the problem (in fact, it creates affordable rentals). The problem is a development style that Is developer-driven – a style that has unfortunately been embraced by the solid right/left multi-party majority sitting currently on City Council.
And while Vancouver continues on its way to becoming an ultra-expensive cement city, with less green space, less access to amenities, and less beauty; the housing crisis continues.
This is because the ever-growing number of high rises and other multi-storey structures is not bringing down house prices. Middle-income Vancouverites are struggling to live in their city, and low-income earners continue to be forced into skid-row hotels, Temporary Modular Housing or homelessness.
We must go beyond the creation of a few blocks of rental housing (much of it unaffordable to low-income earners) and beyond the spread of some substandard subsidized housing. What we need is a major overhaul; a complete change in direction.
We need to empower our neighbourhoods and regulate private development to create enough off-market housing and to curb money laundering.
We need to follow and surpass examples like that of London (England), where buildings of 10 storeys and up must earmark at least 35% of the units for affordable housing. Or like they do in Montreal, where condo developers must build 60% off-market units for every new residential tower they want to erect.
We cannot have a repeat of Burnaby, where a union- and NDP-backed mayor was given 16 continuous years to renovict and demovict thousands of working-class folk in order to allow for the building of luxury condos.
“Vote for us because the others are worse”? Wrong!
In city politics right now, either you move in a direction preferred by money launderers and real estate speculators, or you empower the community and reform the system. There is no middle ground.
It’s clear that we don’t want an NPA- or Vision-led city council, but we cannot reelect those who, despite the progressive rhetoric, have served the developers.
It’s time to look beyond party labels.
The NDP needs to be taught that it should stick to provincial electoral politics and leave the municipal scene for which it has no platform.
Union leadership siding with developers to get jobs for their members need to be taught a longer view of community. The Vancouver District and Labour Council should be criticized for endorsing candidates who push the developer model, impervious to the inability of most unionized workers to access decent housing.
The Green Party needs to revise its municipal politics or its representatives or both.
Let’s reverse this undemocratic pro-developer course, and campaign for the regulation of private development and the empowering of neighbourhoods.