Today in the Huffington Post, City Council candidate RJ Aquino and the OneCity team called on City Hall to close the loopholes in bylaws that are supposed to protect low-income and supportive housing and prevent homelessness.
The City needs to actively enforce the Building Maintenance and Safety Bylaw to protect renters from poorly maintained buildings, especially single room occupancy hotels (SROs) that are being neglected despite past commitments and promises.
We need to strengthen the Single Room Accommodations bylaw to stop developers who are converting existing single-room accommodations into condos, sitting on empty dwellings, or worse, demolishing them and shipping the waste to landfills.
City Hall must also amend the Rate of Change bylaw that is supposed to replace rental units lost to redevelopment, making sure it applies to all zoning types, replaces bedrooms on a one-for-one basis, and that rents increase by no more than five per cent.
And we need to stop shameful renovictions by acting before development permits are issued, giving existing tenants rights of first refusal and again limiting rent increases.
These are concrete, real changes that can make a big difference to thousands of people throughout Vancouver. We believe that with a balanced city council, we can change the way we approach housing in Vancouver. We can prevent homelessness and we can help young people and working families who have given up hope of owning their own home here.
It starts with valuing housing not as game for only the big players, but as a social good.
Hear RJ Aquino this Thursday at the SCARP Affordable Housing Debate at UBC Robson Square Theatre, and read the full Huffington Post here.
Image from WonderRooms on TheTyee.ca
You see that sign on the wall behind Shane Simpson, NDP MLA for Vancouver-Hastings, just after he endorsed OneCity council candidate RJ Aquino? That baby would rock your lawn, window, and balcony. RJ and OneCity are putting out exciting new policy ideas every week and since we're fresh and new, we need your help to get our names out there as this election heats up. And if you're an early adopter in a high-traffic area, ask for our splendid large version in full-colour tomato.
OneCity is a new political organization and yes, we want people to vote for our City Council candidate, RJ Aquino, and for our ideas about making Vancouver a place we can afford to live in and love. But more than anything we want people to vote, and to feel like that imperfect but crucial act of personal expression matters when decisions are made about the things that shape our communities.
That is why OneCity has signed a letter sent to the Elections Officer, City Council and Mayor from the Vancouver Eastside Votes initiative requesting three more advance polling stations for the east side of our city. OneCity raised this issue soon after the map of polling stations was released and received a social media response from the City of Vancouver that included a reference number, 5357681. Despite additional requests for action, however, we have not received a response.
Almost two weeks have gone by and time is running out to fix this. Because we want the many voices of Vancouver — wherever they are raised — to be heard and counted.
Join us in calling on Vancouver to do the right thing — and to do it soon — and we will forward your messages to City Hall.
A transcript of City Council candidate RJ Aquino's remarks at the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods event at St. James Hall on October 15:
"Thank you for joining us tonight. And special thanks to the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods for hosting this event and leading this very important discussion.
"We know something is wrong with the relationships and connections between City Hall and what is happening in our neighbourhoods and communities.
"There is too much talking at communities instead of listening to them, too much marketing instead of authentic consultations. Consultations with teeth, that are creatively delivered and that affect how this city is run.
"We need to be talking together so we can work together to build a better city without destroying the things that make our neighbourhoods special right now.
"You will hear that a lot tonight. But what do we do about it? The OneCity team has been working hard on this and I’m going to put forward four solutions tonight:
"Number One, we believe Vancouver must establish Neighbourhood Councils. They must be democratically elected and funded by the city. And they must carry out real, meaningful community consultations that are listened to at City Hall. The voices of the neighbourhoods need to be heard loudly and clearly -- many neighbourhoods, OneCity.
"Secondly, to make sure that happens and happens city-wide, we need to apply decisions -- for example decisions about development, about density and supportive housing, about child care -- to every neighbourhood in Vancouver, not just one or two. So City Council sets the general direction, the long-term plan, and then it is up to the neighbourhoods, through their councils, to decide how those decisions are carried out and implemented in their communities. And then City Hall listens to them. We want to put into practice what the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has set out in its Principals and Goals.
"Number three, we need to change the way we elect our City Council. OneCity believes we need a ward system, with councillors representing neighbourhoods and constituents, councillors who are directly accountable to the residents of their neighbourhood.
"And number four, Vancouver needs the right kind of campaign finance reform. We need strict limits on donations and strict limits on spending by candidates in the elections themselves. Once those donation and spending limits are in place, then we can ban union and corporate donations.
"I’m looking forward to getting into more detail about these ideas tonight and throughout the campaign. Because we’ve built our new party around the idea of Many Voices, but OneCity. This is about making sure more voices, your voices, are heard when decisions are made at City Hall.