Garbage: big increases in litter, illegal dumping force clean-up crews into overdrive

GarbageNo, you’re not imagining things: there is more garbage on city streets and city work crews are struggling to clean it up, despite dramatic increases in pick-up, sweeping and garbage cans.

City work crews are making progress, but have been nearly overwhelmed, say city staff, by a 30 percent increase 311 calls related to litter, rubbish and illegal dumping in 2015 and a further 15 percent increase in the first quarter of this year. (The details are in this report to council May 18.)

Complaints to council about litter and garbage are routine, one reason why an additional $2 million was added to this year’s budget to help control the problem.

But the new investments are showing results, says Albert Shamess, director of waste management and resource recovery.

Response times to clean up illegal garbage has been reduced from 10 days to three, thanks to pickup schedules that are seven days a week in the downtown core and five days a week elsewhere.

Other improvements:

  • street sweeping increased to 250 hours a week from 150;
  • flushing has been increased to seven days a week from five;
  • litter collection crews have increased to five from three, with a focus on the Downtown Eastside, bus stops and other hot spots; and
  • hours allocated to emptying litter cans have been doubled to 140 hours a week from 70.

In addition, the city is cracking down on violators with new enforcement at hot spots and with regular violators of commercial container rules.

The tonnage of material collected by street crews rose 15 percent  in the first quarter of the year.

Why the increases in litter. Shamess points to a range of factors, including illegal dumping from demolition and development; poor container management, particularly downtown; and the difficulties of disposing of large items in built-up neighbourhoods.

Viaducts replacement could begin in early 2018 under timeline released by city staff

Road to the future or remnant of a dead end?

Viaducts replacement could begin in 2018.

Demolition and replacement of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts could begin early in 2018 if key milestones in the latest city work plan are achieved on schedule.

The dates are set out in a memo to Mayor and Council yesterday from City Manager Sadhu Johnston. Key program staff have now been assembled in a single program office to co-ordinate work among city departments responsible for the work, particularly planning and engineering.

The current key task: selection of the members of advisory stewardship teams, one for the city and another for Park Board. The deadline for applications to serve on those bodies is May 20.


CCPA’s “bold” housing ideas not bold enough to bring real help to Metro’s renters

The New Jubilee: 126 units

The New Jubilee: social housing in Vancouver

Despite the promise to “get serious” about the broken housing market, with “bold affordable housing solutions,” the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives latest policy proposals fall short on both counts.

In particular, yesterday’s policy paper by Marc Lee largely skips over the need — and potential — for a major increase in market rental stock that could give quick assistance to the region’s hundreds of thousands of renters. On the rental side, Lee favours co-op housing and non-profit solutions, both important but a small share of the overall total.

As yesterday’s City of Vancouver housing report card demonstrated, this is an area where even a municipality can trigger the production of thousands of market rental units within the price range of lower and middle income families. Over time, market rental becomes more and more affordable with rents rising more slowly than home ownership costs.

When combined with strict rental replacement requirements, which protect existing stock, such rental construction programs can make a real difference. Neither option gets any assessment in the CCPA proposal.

Some of the CCPA’s main proposals — including inclusionary zoning — have long been City of Vancouver policy. Others, like control of foreign investment, might stop the increase in home ownership costs, but would not add a single unit of affordable housing on their own.

(Lee assumes that new taxes on speculation would put $1 billion or more into provincial coffers for housing, but would that occur if the speculation tax proved effective?)

One Vancouver initiative Lee acknowledges is the community land trust project now under construction to produce 400 units under co-op and non-profit direction. This pilot program is very important, but has already demonstrated that the community land trust model needs careful planning and support to succeed.

That’s why market rental needs to included as part of the continuum of housing affordability policies. Although the CCPA feels enough information is on hand to deal with foreign ownership, it wants more data on Airbnb, despite abundant evidence that such services are driving down rental vacancies and driving up rent.

There’s much to like in the CCPA proposals, but much more could be included.

Vancouver programs generating half of all new rental in Metro, protecting critical lower-cost housing stock

rentVancouver’s Housing Action Plan has delivered almost half of all new rentals in Metro Vancouver, council learned today, and is ensuring that more than 35 percent of the city’s housing stock is affordable to families on low and middle incomes.

Good enough? Not by a long shot, given the insanity of the housing market, but the city’s latest housing report card show how much can be done, particularly with the city prepared to invest more than $600 million to build solutions.

Five years into the plan, the city has approved 5,119 rental units, double the goal of 2,500. (During the same period, Burnaby had a net loss of more than 400 units because it has no rental protection bylaw.)

Overall, more than 12,000 new lower-cost homes have been completed, are under construction or have been approved.

But the city’s efforts to build more social and supportive housing are falling behind, despite a very significant city contribution of land, because of poor or non-existent provincial and federal programs. Despite the partnership with Victoria that has seen more than 1,000 supportive housing units built on city land, hundreds more units are needed.

Clearly, though, the city is making difference in the rental market, increasing the city’s rental stock by 10 percent. That’s making a difference, although vacancy rates remain vanishingly low.