The Sad Housing Lessons of Little Mountain

How the province and city sacrificed opportunity for social and affordable housing in favour of private interests. 

Initially published at The Tyee:

There’s a huge, hard-to-miss vacant lot near the corner of 35th Avenue and Main Street in Vancouver. Until 2007, that 15-acre vacant lot was a thriving, successful social housing community — Little Mountain. 

Little Mountain’s 224 units were built after the Second World War to house returning veterans. Thousands of families lived there over more than 60 years.

Until March 2007, when residents began to be pushed from their homes and the community was destroyed by BC Housing, which owned the land, and its masters in the BC Liberal government. 

On July 26, almost a decade later, Vancouver city council approved a development plan prepared by the Holborn Group, a huge Malaysian corporation. The company plans to build 1,500 new units, with the vast majority — about 1,200 — high-end condos. The bulldozed social housing units will be replaced and fewer than 50 additional social housing or “affordable” apartments will be built. Construction won’t be finished for at least 10 years. 

And one of the greatest opportunities for new social and affordable housing in Vancouver will have been lost forever.

What can we learn from this sad, sad story? What should have been done at Little Mountain?

Read more

Campaign finance reform must be more than a ban on big money

Originally published in The Georgia Straight, June 3 2016

It seems as if almost everyone is talking about campaign finance reform lately.  It’s no wonder.  The vast and obscene donations tied up in political campaigns distort and deform the electoral process, making “big money” the critical factor in determining who governs.  

Vancouver is a perfect example of the problem as developers pour millions into the process – and expect and get a handsome return on their investments.  During the 2014 election the two largest parties, Vision and the NPA received over five and a half million dollars in donations.

For many, Campaign Finance Reform starts and ends with a call to ban corporate and union donations to political parties.

We at OneCity start somewhere else entirely.

Read more

Affordability is the real issue in Grandview-Woodlands

The Vision and NPA City Council have done it again: they’ve proposed a development that doesn’t deal with the desperate need for affordable and social housing, and at the same time makes many members of the community angry.

The conversation about  the proposed Kettle development on the corner of Venables and Commercial has started up again this month, with the release of a design visualization, which includes a 12-storey building, in a neighbourhood where a four-storey limit has been the norm.

Although the project stands to offer some benefit to the Kettle Society’s important work, and would contribute some much-needed supportive housing, the only real winner - at this point - is the developer, Boffo Properties.

The Kettle Society is a non-profit that provides housing, employment and advocacy support for people living with mental illnesses. Their Venables Street centre is too small and needs many upgrades, and wait-lists are growing. Understandably and admirably, the Kettle wishes to expand and gain new facilities, and offer more supportive housing for its clients.

While in an ideal world public funds would support and house our most vulnerable, the Kettle has been realistic and pragmatic, and partnered with Boffo Properties to redevelop the corner of Venables and Commercial.

Unfortunately, the Kettle, and the neighbourhood, seems likely to be shortchanged in this transaction.

Read more

Affordable-housing crisis requires local solutions too

Originally published by The Georgia Straight.

By RJ Aquino, David Chudnovsky, and Cara Ng

In a city where housing costs reach stratospheric heights, it seems Vision Vancouver will continue approving luxury-condo towers rather than creating the affordable housing for seniors, families, and young people that we so desperately need.

Vancouver’s governing party is, rightly, calling on the provincial government to implement speculation and luxury-housing taxes. Vision has also offered 20 city-owned sites to the federal government for affordable housing. We at OneCity support Vision in these initiatives.

We also agree that the provincial government is failing low- and moderate-income households and young families. The 2016 B.C. budget does not come close to tackling the immensity of the homeownership challenges facing young households—nor do the B.C. Liberals seem to comprehend (or care) about the crisis facing renters in Canada’s most expensive and lowest-vacancy market. In fact, the B.C. government quietly doubled residential-tenancy-dispute fees—a move that further tips the residential-tenancy system in favour of landlords.

We believe there is a great deal of merit in a speculation tax. Hey, wait a minute. That sounds like the policy idea OneCity first proposed during the 2014 Vancouver municipal election. In fact, it is—only Vision’s proposal deflects municipal responsibility for addressing speculation. They have proposed a provincial speculation tax whereas in 2014, OneCity proposed to implement That Flipping Levy at the municipal level, with the City of Vancouver taking the revenue and creating new living spaces for low- and middle-income households.

We’re flattered Vision Vancouver is putting forward the affordable housing solutions we proposed back in 2014. But, unfortunately, their proposals fall short because they cede responsibility for a municipal role in protecting and creating affordable housing, leaving the success of such a plan entirely in the hands of the province.

Read more

Volunteer Donate Contact Us