The OneCity team and City Council candidate RJ Aquino have unveiled four ideas for local economic development that will make Vancouver a true leader in sustainability — and a place where workers earn enough to live and pay their bills.
“Much of the Vancouver economy is currently unbalanced and leaning too heavily on real-estate and a low-wage service sector, but we have an opportunity to kickstart economic development and tackle climate change by taking care of the buildings and people we have here now,” City Council Candidate RJ Aquino says. “Energy efficiency retrofits, choosing deconstruction over demolitions, and making sure people can live and work in this city at innovative zero-waste industries and earn a Living Wage — that is how you build a truly sustainable city and economy.”
1. It starts with wrapping pipes in MURBs. Buildings account for roughly 40 per cent of greenhouse-gas emissions and there are thousands of multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs) in this city that need attention and work. To make a meaningful difference in the fight against climate change and create and support local jobs, the City of Vancouver needs to improve its support for energy efficiency.
City Hall must move immediately to retrofit all City-owned buildings to ensure they have mechanical insulation that meets best-practice standards, and require developers to build real energy-efficiency into their plans. The City should also create an interest-free loan program so that Vancouver residents and building owners can retrofit existing structures and homes. The costs of the program can be paid back quickly due to the significant amounts of money saved annually from energy-use reductions and increased efficiency
2. Then prioritize deconstruction, not demolitions. In addition to encouraging retrofits, the City’s building code must be amended to preserve existing housing by discouraging demolitions with strict penalties. When a building cannot be saved, Vancouver needs to learn from innovative cities around the world and encourage deconstruction, which means reusing and recycling materials when a building is dismantled instead of shipping everything to landfills. (In 2013, the City of Vancouver created 158,387 tonnes of demolition waste, more than a quarter of the total of municipal solid waste).
City Hall can prioritize deconstruction — and kickstart the local economy with new industries and employment — by seeding and supporting needed infrastructure such as exchange depots and by offering incentives to businesses and building owners who responsibly and sustainably deconstruct structures.
3. Out-of-control real-estate prices are being felt by Vancouver residents but also by small industries and businesses that are being forced to relocate. Vancouver needs to protect existing industrial and commercial land to ensure people in Vancouver can live close to where they work. And City Hall must move beyond its narrow focus on the high-tech sector by encouraging and seeding zero-waste industries on that land.
4. To create a sustainable economy, we need less money going out of households and the local economy and more money coming in and circulating. The City of Vancouver must catch up to New Westminster and pay its employees and contractors a Living Wage. Workers need to be paid wages that cover basic living costs such as food, shelter, and child care. The Living Wage for Families Campaign sets the rate for Vancouver at $20.10.
RJ Aquino and OneCity also believe City Hall can help create a critical mass of Living Wage employers by establishing a Living Wage Zone in the False Creek Flats. This innovative approach to neighbourhood development would utilize business licensing and zoning measures to ensure that a Living Wage is paid to everyone involved in new construction, employees in False Creek Flat industries, and contract employees who are the most precarious workers. Vancouver can send a strong message across Canada and the world that decent, living wage jobs are a priority and necessary to tackle the growing social divide in our cities.