Vision’s affordable home ownership pledge a key election commitment

With the election scarcely three weeks away, almost no time has been spent on what all agree is perhaps the most critical issue facing Vancouver: the cost of housing.

Mayor Gregor Robertson’s platform announcement yesterday set out VisionVancouver’s proposals to tackle the problem, including a key pledge to begin work on affordable market housing.

After a scant three questions, however, reporters turned to more pressing issues, like the possibility of rats at the site of Occupy Vancouver.

Nonetheless, Robertson spelled out what Vision Vancouver will do if given a new mandate Nov. 19. Here’s exactly what the Mayor said:

“It wasn’t that long ago that people thought Vancouver’s toughest social problems were permanent fixtures.
Homelessness… unaffordable housing… Too bad, some people would say, but you’d better get used to them. They’re just part of the backdrop, like the mountains and oceans.
Well, three years ago, homelessness hit the crisis point. And the people of Vancouver decided it was time to start moving mountains.
We knew Vancouver could do better. We knew we have to do better. It’s what led me to run for Mayor.
And it’s what led the people to elect the Vision Vancouver team – with a strong mandate to tackle homelessness and the cost of housing.
So we went to work. For the past three years, this has been our core focus: addressing homelessness, and the issues surrounding and underlying it, like drug addiction and mental health.
We opened new shelters – and tonight there are 650 fewer people sleeping on Vancouver’s streets than there were three years ago.
We worked with the BC government and secured an investment of a third of a billion dollars, creating more than 1,500 low-income homes. And since last year, for the first time in more than a decade, overall homelessness actually dropped.
That’s more than 100 fewer homeless people.
We put tenant issues front and centre, and about time. Because this is a city where more than half of our residents rent their homes.
We cracked down on slum landlords, ending the NPA’s free-ride policy. We used the first-ever legal injunctions to force owners to clean up low-income hotels in the Downtown Eastside.
Our rental incentives program created the first new market rental housing in four years. And we created the first new co-op homes in False Creek in a decade.
That’s genuine, tangible progress. But we all knew going in that this wasn’t going to be a single-term problem.
So let’s get back to work.
Today I’m releasing Vision Vancouver’s agenda for the next three years on affordability, housing and homelessness.
The heart of our agenda is the 10-year affordable housing and homelessness plan that the Vision Council approved earlier this year.
It includes measures to bring 38,000 new affordable homes to Vancouver. A task force to find ways to strengthen renters’ rights. And a strategy to maintain low-barrier shelters for our most vulnerable citizens.
We’ll build on that plan over the next three years. And we’ll start by making the most of a simple fact: one of the largest property owners in Vancouver is the city itself.
We’ll work with private and non-profit partners to use city-owned properties to increase the stock of affordable housing – from co-ops and affordable rental right through to affordable home ownership.
I’ll say that again. Affordable home ownership in the city of Vancouver.
And while the only durable solution to homelessness is homes, we can’t tell people sleeping on the streets to wait for partnerships to form and construction to finish. So we will continue to support shelters in critical neighbourhoods, including a 24/7 women’s shelter in the Downtown Eastside.
We’ll work with community partners like SUCCESS to increase our support for our seniors, especially in immigrant communities, to help them meet their growing housing needs.
To protect renters: we’ll continue the hard line on landlords who refuse to bring their properties up to even the most basic standards. That will include a new apartment registry, so you can publicly track work orders and property violations on a searchable web site.
If you’re a renter looking for an apartment, you’ll know instantly which landlords are holding up their end – and who the bad apples are.
We’ll help make rent more affordable, with strategies to build more rental housing, and to help tenants realize their dreams of home ownership.
And we’ll work with business, government and organizations like Streetohome to develop a rent bank for renters in crisis. These are people in danger of losing their homes because they’ve been laid off, or been hit with a huge expense.
They’ll be able to get a loan to cover their rent – one they’ll repay as they get back on their feet.
The policies we’re putting forward stand in sharp contrast to the negative, out-of-touch ideas championed by Suzanne Anton and the NPA.
When it comes to affordable housing and homelessness, for the past three years the NPA have opposed us every step of the way
Only one councilor voted against the City’s affordable housing plan: the NPA’s Suzanne Anton
Only one councilor said no to the city supporting emergency homeless shelters: the NPA’s Suzanne Anton
The NPA are not a party that is willing or able to face up to the challenge of homelessness and affordable housing – quite simply, they have the wrong priorities.
And it reinforces the important choice voters must make on Saturday, November 19th.
In the past three years, the progress we’ve made so far makes me proud. But it doesn’t make me content.
The job will not be finished until nobody, not one person, has to sleep outside at night.
The job will not be finished until everyone, every family, senior and student, can find affordable, quality housing.
And if you believe as I do, that this job is at the heart of what city government should be about… then I ask you to support this agenda, and Vision Vancouver, on November 19.
Thank you.