Tag Archives: nimby

Vancouver Election 2018 Primer – Part 4 – Who to Vote For

The Vancouver election is on October 20 but advanced voting starts today. Do you know who you’re voting for? Don’t panic. I have a few recommendations.

If you’re looking for more detail on the issues, you can check out:

If you just want to know who to vote for, this is the blog post for you.

My Recommended Slate (In Ballot Order)

Mayor  5. SYLVESTER, Shauna
Council  2. BOYLE, Christine OneCity
 6. CROOK, Adrian
27. COOK, Graham
36. PAZ, Tanya Vision Vancouver
45. SWANSON, Jean COPE
54. BLYTH, Sarah
56. CARDONA, Diego Vision Vancouver
59. O’KEEFE, Derrick COPE
65. YAN, Brandon 甄念本 OneCity
71. DEAL, Heather Vision Vancouver
Park  2. DEMERS, Dave GREEN
18. SHIVJI, Shamim Vision Vancouver
22. KAGIS, Mathew Work Less Party
25. ZUBKO, Cameron Vision Vancouver
26. GIESBRECHT, Gwen COPE
29. DUMONT, Camil GREEN
32. MACKINNON, Stuart GREEN
School  2. REDDY, Jennifer OneCity
 7. BERCIC, Carrie OneCity
15. JAAF, Erica OneCity
23. LEUNG, Aaron Vision Vancouver
26. WONG, Allan Vision Vancouver
28. CHAN-PEDLEY, Lois GREEN
30. DAY, Diana COPE
31. ARNOLD, Erin Vision Vancouver
32. OGER, Morgane

Edits

October 10 – original list

October 11 – School Board candidate Lois Chan-Pedley replaces Barb Parrott.

October 13 – Park Board candidate Mathew Kagis replaces John Irwin.

How Did I Pick My Candidates?

I’m looking for a new generation of elected officials to take over city hall. I hope after October 20 there will be more youth and more renters. I’m picking urbanists who are not afraid to make bold changes to the city (more apartments, more density, more bike lanes, more public transit, more public spaces) over conservationists who want to preserve neighbourhood character. I also wanted a gender-balanced council slate with 5 women and 5 men.

I don’t endorse everyone on my ballot with the same enthusiasm. Some I know will be amazing and some I have my reservations about. If I had to break them into tiers there would be:

Tier 1 Candidates: I Wish I Could Vote Them Multiple Times
boyleChristine Boyle (Council) – There’s not enough space to explain how awesome Christine is. She won the Last Candidate Standing Debate where she wowed the crowd with her compassion, smarts, and great ideas on how to make Vancouver better. She’s been endorsed by Dan Mangan and Naomi Klein. Check out This is VANCOLOUR podcast to listen for yourself.
yanBrandon Yan (Council) – I’ve been following Brandon on twitter for over 5 years. He’s young, smart, passionate about urban issues, and a huge advocate for LGBTQ youth. If he’s part of the next generation of leaders at City Hall, then I’m confident in Vancouver’s future. Listen to his interview the the Cambie Report.
crookAdrian Crook (Council) – Better known as the dad behind the 5 Kids and 1 Condo blog, Adrian is another young renter and urbanist running for council. He’s passionate about housing and transit, having co-founded Abundant Housing Vancouver and Abundant Transit BC. Listen to his interview with the Cambie Report.
blythSarah Blyth (Council) – She knows more about the opioid crisis than anyone else running for council. Anyone who’s talking about the issue is just repeating what Sarah has said. She has elected experience (Park Board twice) but also knows what it takes to get things done. She founded the Overdose Prevention Society and is responsible for saving hundreds of lives.
bercicCarrie Bercic (School Board) – Anyone who’s paying attention to Vancouver School Board politics knows the current board has been disappointing but there is one standout – Carrie Bercic. She advocates for students (like getting lead out of drinking water) and stands up to the provincial government (ensuring the VSB gets the proper funding for capital upgrades without having to strike deals with BC Hydro).
jaafErica Jaaf (School Board) – I had the privilege of chatting with both Carrie and Erica about School Board issues. These two women know there stuff. They both have long histories serving on parent advisory committees for their kids and the VSB would be better with them.
dumontCamil Dumont (Park Board) – The only Park Board candidate I’m really excited about. He’s an urban farmer, a cyclist, and is passionate about our parks system.
Tier 2 Candidates: I’m Happy To Vote For Them

Shauna Sylvester (Mayor) – She’s clearly the best mayoral candidate and has brought the most interesting policy ideas to this campaign. Her unflinching defence of cyclists in a hostile crowd won my respect (video here). She would be a Tier 1 candidate if I wasn’t worried I was splitting the left-wing vote and allowing Ken Sim to win.

Tanya Paz (Council) – Knows more about transportation than anyone else running for election. She’s a passionate advocate for active transportation and car sharing. She’s new to elected office but not new to government, having chaired the City of Vancouver’s Active Transportation Policy Council since 2013.

Diego Cardona (Council) – Has one of the most interesting backstories of anyone running for public office. He came to Canada as a refugee, ended up in the foster care system, went to UBC, and is now a champion of immigrants and renters. Oh, and he’s only 22.

Heather Deal (Council) – As one of the few councillors actually running for re-election, she brings some experience to what is guaranteed to be a council full of rookies. She’s hardworking, and an environmentalist and scientist.

Jennifer Reddy (School Board) – As an educator, Jennifer brings an important perspective to School Board (which is usually dominated by parents). I haven’t had a chance to meet her yet, but if she’s anything like the other 4 candidates running for OneCity (and from reading what others have said she is), then she would make an excellent trustee.

Morgane Oger (School Board) – She came within a few hundred votes of knocking off former Mayor Sam Sullivan in the provincial election. She’s a big proponent for Trans rights and SOGI curriculum in schools.

Stuart Mackinnon (Park Board) – One of the longest serving members of the Park Board. I haven’t always agreed with him, but he engages with Vancouverites and is committed to his role as a Park Board Commissioner. He should be re-elected.

Dave Demers (Park Board) – Another Green candidate with seems perfectly suited for Park Board. Dave describes himself as a plant geek, and although I can’t relate I respect that.

Tier 3 Candidates: I Hope I Don’t Regret This

Jean Swanson (Council) – A principled fighter for the poor and marginalized. I have some doubts about COPE from previous elections, but I think with Swanson and O’Keefe they’re moving in the right direction. She’s not a huge advocate for urbanist issues, but she will stick up for people who normally don’t have much influence in City Hall.

Derrick O’Keefe (Council) – I was really impressed with Derrick’s interview on This is VANCOLOUR. He’s a principled socialist but also pragmatic. As a founding member of the Vancouver Tenants Union, he is a great champion for renters.

Graham Cook (Council) – Graham is a last-minute addition to my ballot (replacing Pete Fry). He shares all the same opinions as I do about how to make the city better. I just worry as an independent without much visibility outside of twitter what his chances are. Listen to his excellent interview with the Cambie Report.

Tier 4 Candidates: If I Had More Votes, I’d Vote For

Kennedy Stewart (Mayor) – If I had a ranked ballot it would be Shauna first, Kennedy a close second. The progressive vote is lining up behind Kennedy and many people I respect (including all of OneCity) have endorsed him. His platform is good, he’s an interesting guy, he’s passionate about the environment and housing issues, and will undoubtedly make a good mayor if he wins. I just think Shauna would make a better mayor.

Pete Fry (council) – I debated and long and hard about whether to vote for Graham Cook or Pete Fry as my last vote. In the end I picked Graham Cook because he represents my opinions closer. I might not always agree with Pete but I really respect him. He engages with people and tries to hear all sides of an issue. I hope he wins a seat and transforms what the Green Party is because the party needs more than Adriane Carr (see below). Listen to his interview the the Cambie Report.

Michael Wiebe (council) – For the same reasons as Pete Fry above. Michael Wiebe is an urbanist and would represent a shift away from NIMBY voices in the Green Party. If you’re looking for a Green Party candidate to vote for please choose Wiebe before Carr. Listen to his interview the the Cambie Report.

Stephanie Ostler (council) – From what I’ve seen of Stephanie Ostler, I think she’d make an excellent city councillor. She’s young, a business owner, and passionate about environmental issues. She gave this great TED talk about fashion and the environment. However, she’s running for a new party that has no platform outside of housing and I can’t vote for someone who has no stated position on the other important issues.

Taq Bhandal and Wade Grant (council) – I already have 5 independent votes on my ballot, but Taq Bhandal and Wade Grant are two more who caught my attention. Both have interesting backgrounds and would bring more diversity to council. They’re worth checking out.

Basement Tier Candidates: I’m Specifically Not Voting For

Adriane Carr (council) – The NIMBY voice of the Vancouver Green Party. My gripes with her have existed for many years, as she’s consistently been the voice against density (including social housing) in Vancouver and ignored environmental issues.

Anne Roberts (council) – Anne Roberts was on council back in the early 2000s where she fought against the Canada Line in favour of buses.

Wai Young (mayor) – The bike-lane hating, Stephen Harper loving candidate for mayor running along with a reject coalition of castoffs who were too damaged for the NPA.

Ken Denike and Sophia Woo (school) – The bigoted candidates from Coalition of Vancouver who want to prevent Vancouver students from learning that some kids have 2 mommies.

David Chen (mayor) – He’s quantitatively a twitter troll and has suggested that bike lanes be removed in the winter. His whole ProVancouver party is toxic.

Other Endorsed Slates

But this is just my opinion. You should really seek out other people’s if you’re wondering who to vote for. To make that easier here is a round-up of other endorsements (not all of which I agree with).

Vancouver Election 2018 Primer – Part 5 – Endorsements

Vancouver Election 2018 Primer – Part 3 – Housing

Gastown

There seems to be only one issue this election that everyone is talking about, and it’s housing (note: I covered the minor issues last week). We’re in a crisis and every politician has a plan to make it better.

I’m happy for all the attention. I’m a renter who is frustrated by the ridiculous price of housing and the ever-increasing rents. When I moved to Vancouver in 2006, the market was crazy and it has only gotten worse since.

So what are the politicians promising and will it actually fix anything?

TL/DR: First we’ll go over some background, then we’ll summarize each of the parties positions, and lastly I’ll try to save my opinions for the end.

Background

Why is there a crisis? In short, local wages have not kept pace with the price of housing. People earning average incomes in the city can’t afford to live here. It’s particularly a problem for businesses looking to attract and retain employees; young millenials who would will never be able to afford to buy if things continue; and the poor and marginalized who can’t afford rents anywhere and are becoming homeless in alarming numbers.

How did we get here? Vancouver has always been expensive. But things really went nuts in the past 10 years (just compare Vancouver to Montreal over the past 20 years). Record low interest rates, foreign capital, an investment frenzy, and money laundering are all to blame in some part. For a long time the rising prices were seen as a sign of success and it wasn’t until recently that there’s been enough pressure that politicians have started to act to slow down the housing market.

What has been done? The federal government has been tightening mortgage rules making it harder to borrow money, and interest rates are slowly rising after a decade of very low borrowing costs. The BC government brought in a foreign buyers tax and a speculation tax. And in Vancouver we have an empty homes tax, Airbnb restrictions, and 600 new units of modular housing for the homeless. Most of these actions were done in the past year, so it’s probably too early to tell if they’re having a measurable impact, but Vancouverites are still clamouring for action in this election.

What can the city do? The city doesn’t have a lot of power. Roughly half of what the various politicians are proposing will require lobbying the provincial and federal governments to make changes. But there are some things it can do on its own.

Other than the aforementioned empty homes tax and Airbnb regulations, the city controls zoning, building regulations, property tax rates, and owns a bunch of land.

77% of residential land in Vancouver is zoned for only single family homes (RS1) – no apartments, condos, or townhouses allowed. Not surprisingly these homes are impossible to buy for anyone without existing wealth. It is possible for the city to rezone these neighbourhoods to allow denser housing options that would distribute the high cost of land between more properties and bring down the price. However, many people suggest this would destroy the character of these neighbourhoods and would just trigger more speculation and higher prices without achieving true affordability.

Salt Building

The Ideas

There’s been a number of ideas floated by the various politicians running for office. The most common is support for temporary modular housing to help the most vulnerable. Some of the parties support changing zoning to increase the supply of housing, but others think property owners should be consulted more before we change the character of the single family areas of the city.

VancouverHousingPlatformsV10.png

Note: Many of the candidates have been clarifying their positions on housing in this twitter thread. I’ve been doing my best to update the graph above to reflect that.

Vision Vancouver

Vision is largely running on their record for the past 10 years. They’ve been both accused of not doing enough and moving too fast. They did a decent job tackling homelessness with shelters and temporary module housing projects, but they waited too long to act on general housing affordability. In 2015, Mayor Gregor Robertson even accused UBC prof Andy Yan of being racist for suggesting foreign money was fueling Vancouver’s hot housing market – a real lowpoint for Vision.

Since then they brought in the empty homes tax, regulated short term rentals (like Airbnb), built 600+ units of temporary modular housing – all innovative programs in Canada. One of their last acts was to change the zoning for Vancouver’s single family neighbourhoods to allow duplexes on all lots with their controversial Making Room policy.

Their housing plan includes:

  • tripling the empty homes tax
  • building more modular housing
  • expanding RS1 to allow triplexes, rowhouses, and townhouses in all neighbourhoods

YES Vancouver

YES Vancouver (and its leader Hector Bremner) deserves much of credit for the bold zoning changes that other parties like OneCity (and even Vision) are talking about now. 4 years ago policies like that would never have been considered, but Bremner won last year’s by-election with a promise to densify Vancouver’s single family neighbourhoods.

YES Vancouver has one of the most detailed housing platforms (a whopping 49 page pdf) and it’s the only issue the party is talking about. They don’t have a single policy that isn’t housing related.

The #LetsFixHousing action plan includes:

  • rezoning the single family neighbourhoods to allow triplex, fourplexes, and small apartment buildings.
  • incentivizing purpose built rental buildings
  • more density near rapid transit
  • supporting temporary modular housing
  • a 50% capital gains tax on speculators who flip properties

OneCity

OneCity has proposed solving the housing crisis with a combination of zoning to increase housing availability, taxes to discourage speculation and bring in revenue, and the construction of thousands of new units of subsidized housing on city-owned land.

The main difference with Yes Vancouver, is OneCity is proposing more city-funded housing projects paid for with new taxes that will also curb speculation.

Their platform includes:

  • zoning changes to allow more apartments and social housing in all neighbourhoods
  • land value capture tax to reduce speculation when areas are rezoned or transit is added
  • a mansion tax of 1% on properties worth more than $4+ million and 2% on $8+ million that would raise $262M/year
  • rental only zoning to protect older apartment buildings

COPE

COPE has a lot of policies around protecting renters and providing homes for the marginalized, but not much about building new housing.

Their platform includes:

  • a 4 year rent freeze
  • tying rent to unit (can’t be raised when tenant leaves)
  • a mansion tax of 1% on properties worth more than $5+ million and 2% on $10+ million that would raise $170M/year
  • more temporary modular housing, social housing, and co-ops

NPA

The NPA is probably the most homeowner friendly party. If you own a home in Vancouver and are worried about it losing value, you might find comfort in what the NPA is proposing.

Their housing plan includes:

  • more secondary suites (basements or laneway houses)
  • comprehensive city-wide plan
  • scrapping empty homes tax
  • neighbourhood veto

Green Party

The Green Party housing platform is big on goals and platitudes (like “recognizing the right to housing”, “defining affordability relative to local incomes”, and “setting a goal of 50% below-market-rate housing”) and short on actual actions. Their track record when it comes to supporting the construction of more housing in Vancouver is not good. As Kevin Quinlan points out, Adriane Carr frequently voted against housing projects if there was any neighbourhood opposition.

 

The Greens do have one of the more unique housing proposals: resident-workers housing. They point to Whistler as a model, where 50% of units in all multi-unit condos are sold to the city at half the market rate for worker housing. In Vancouver, they suggest a similar model could be used for firefighters, police, teachers, child-care workers, and health care workers. They also suggest using school land to build housing for teachers.

The Green platform includes:

  • allowing two or more secondary suites
  • developing a city-wide plan
  • retaining character homes
  • getting rid of parking minimums
  • rental only zoning to protect older apartment buildings
  • resident-workers housing

Coalition Vancouver

Wai Young’s party promises to:

  • focus will be on purpose-built rental housing near transportation hubs
  • give neighbourhoods a veto over new development
  • oppose rezoning for density

ProVancouver

They want to:

  • protect heritage buildings
  • limit density
  • ban Airbnb
  • build more temporary modular housing

Kennedy Stewart (Mayoral candidate)

Kennedy Stewart is a housing policy nerd. When he decided to run in May, he suggested the city should wait to see how the bunch of new measures from the city and province are working before adding more policies. Which is the rational, data nerd approach. However, sensing the frustration in Vancouver, he’s since come out with a number of proposals to fix things, including:

  • tripling the empty homes tax
  • using rental zoning laws to protect apartments
  • allowing triplexes and fourplexes on single lots in the least-dense neighbourhoods
  • big targets for new units 85,000 over 4 years (including 25,000 rentals)

Shauna Sylvester (Mayoral candidate)

Shauna is a huge fan of co-op housing, and wants to make Vancouver the North American capital for co-ops and co-housing. She’s focussed most of her housing platform around a goal of a 3% vacancy rate and the actions needed to get there. She’s proposing:

  • speeding up the construction of purpose built rental
  • allowing upzoning of single family lots to allow duplexes or triplexes, but only if they pay a CAC (Community Amenity Contribution)
  • supporting a land-value capture tax like OneCity’s

Adrian Cook (Council candidate)

As a co-founder of Abundant Housing, Adrian has been a huge advocate for more housing choices in all neighbourhoods of Vancouver. He’s a big proponent of incentivising purpose built rental and thinks Vancouver needs more housing options between the two extremes we predominantly have right now – single family homes and huge condo buildings. His housing ideas are probably closest to YES Vancouver.

Graham Cook (Council candidate)

A young renter who wants to ensure there is more housing options for everyone. His platform focuses on purpose built rental, ending the “apartment ban” in Vancouver’s residential neighbourhoods, and decreasing minimum parking requirements.

Rob McDowell (Council candidate)

Rob’s housing solutions champion innovative ideas like co-housing, purpose-built rental, and free-hold townhomes.

Sarah Blyth (Council candidate)

Sarah’s platform focuses more on the opioid crisis, but she does express explicit support for co-op housing in his platform.

City Lost in Fog

My Opinion

My favourite proposal is OneCity’s land value tax. Although the details still need to be worked out, I think it’s crucial that the city institute a system to capture the increasing value of the land. I like that the tax both reduces speculation and also raises money for the city to spend on social housing.

I’m not a fan of the rent freeze proposed by COPE, although it would directly benefit me. The reason rents keep rising is that the vacancy rate is less than 1% in Vancouver. That is fundamentally what needs to change. A rent freeze discourages the building of new rental buildings and creates an ever-increasing gap between the rents of people who have lived here for a long time (rent-controlled) and what rents are for people just moving here (what the market wants to charge). It also traps people in their unit. Market rents in our neighbourhood are 30%-50% higher than what we’re paying right now. We can’t afford to move. Luckily we have a good landlord and live in a stable building, but for those who don’t it’s a real problem. COPE is proposing tying rent to the unit instead of the tenants so it wouldn’t be able to rise when a new tenant moves in, but that would be a huge change and would really discourage new apartment construction.

The Green’s resident-workers housing proposal is interesting, but I can’t see it working in Vancouver. It makes sense for a resort town like Whistler, where there’s a clear split between the tourists and the workers. But in Vancouver, the majority of residents are workers. Why single out a few professions (like firefighters and nurses) for special housing? And the proposal to put teachers housing on school grounds is unique but equally bizarre. I can’t see any teachers wanting to live on the school grounds where they teach. Full points for creativity, but I think we need solutions that provide housing for everyone.

I think the most important part of any party’s housing platform is not the specific policies, but the urgency to act. It feels like some parties are favouring older property owners who are resistant to change over younger renters who are desperate for it. The language is guarded but the biases are clear. The NPA and Green Party are the NIMBY parties, talking about preserving neighbourhood character and consultation with neighbourhood groups. It is language you won’t hear from the YIMBY parties like OneCity, YES Vancouver, or (to a lesser degree) Vision. Even COPE shows more urgency to act with policies targeted at renters.

False Creek Smooth as Glass

Further Reading