Today, three stories by Pete McMartin, http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/want+affordable+housing+somewhere+else/5829419/story.html Daniel Fontaine http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/Columnists/DanielFontaine/2011/12/07/19093016.html and Charlie Smith http://www.straight.com/article-558036/vancouver/housing-gamble. appeared in various publications. I was pleased to speak to all three during the preparation of their stories
Both McMartin and Fontaine correctly noted that as long as we continue to try and make Vancouver more and more attractive and yes, the Greenest City in the World, it will place additional pressures on housing affordability. (While some like to say green housing doesn't cost more, there is no doubt that really green housing does cost more!)
Both wrote that Detroit has very affordable housing; but we don’t want to become Detroit.
Frances Bula also wrote about the Mayor's objectives on her blog. http://www.francesbula.com/uncategorized/challenge-to-creating-low-cost-housing-who-benefits/comment-page-1/#comment-135957
The following notes are based on comments I posted on the Fabula blog in response to what she and her readers wrote, a well as in response to the McMartin and Fontaine stories:
Unlike my dear and mysterious friend Glissy, and Randy Helten, I am happy to acknowledge that the election is over and it’s time to move on. That being said, I do think it is important to learn from some of the decisions made in the past (by all administrations) particularly related to the Olympic Village and STIR.
I think David Hadaway has raised some good issues when it comes to public sector development, and non-profit housing development.
He’s probably right that the city is not likely to create a revitalized Housing Corporation and undertake direct development of significant amounts of non-market and market housing. I say ‘revitalized’ since the city does have a Housing Corporation (remember Morris Jerroff?) which built a few projects with CMHC money in the 70′s. (I know, since I approved the loans!)
However, for decades Toronto successfully played a significant role in direct housing development. Unfortunately, some of the recent ‘scandals’ with their Metro Housing Corporation may have altered the public perception of this as a way to go.
We should, however, look at how Toronto has overseen redevelopment of Regent Park, and then compare that with the Little Mountain project. While it may be too late to restructure the redevelopment of Little Mountain, I think the Toronto Community Housing model offers lessons for the regeneration of other older public and social housing sites, and any significant city owned lands.
In this regard, I must note that while much is made of ‘levering’ city lands, I’m not aware of just how much Vancouver city-owned land can be developed over the next three years.I am aware of some ‘social housing sites’ that the city can acquire from Concord and others, and smaller sites scattered around the city, but I’ll be interested to see just how much land is readily available in the near future.
As an aside, I know of some land that can be redeveloped 30 years from now eg: South Shore False Creek, but that is another story! However it is an issue that needs to be discussed now.
(Maybe we can redevelop portions of the park between the two main South Shore False Creek housing enclaves since they were supposed to be housing until George Puil and others argued the whole site should be a park! )
David Hadaway may be wrong when he says the city is unlikely to stimulate non-profits and other enitities, like the British Housing Societies to become more active in housing development. To this list I would add Community Land Trusts and Community Housing Trusts, and unlikely bedfellow arrangements between non-profits, charitable groups and developers.
I think there is a potential role for non-profits and charities that have land (often it’s a parking lot or unused portion of their land) that could be redeveloped, especially if parking requirements can be reduced.
I agree with those who rightly note that ‘affordable’ means different things for different groups. I’m glad we will be focussing on more than just the homeless since, as Patricia Canning recently reminded me, for some time I have believed that housing the homeless has hijacked a broader discussion on housing affordability in Vancouver.
As the Mayor rightly notes, there are a lot of people who are not homeless, who may have good incomes, but are having a real problem finding acceptable, affordable housing. (His children may soon fall into this category; my children are in this category; and no doubt many Fabula readers fall within this category.)
One way to address affordability for a broad spectrum of people is to increase supply for all kinds of housing, but especially ground oriented family oriented housing for sale; and rental housing.
To do this, we are going to have to rezone suitably located single family blocks around Vancouver, especially since according to the recently approved Metro Growth Management Strategy, we are no longer allowed to redevelop industrial lands for housing. (Personally, I believe it will be possible to combine new housing with industrial development, but that too is another story.)
Both Frances and Wendy are right to raise the thorny issue of who should benefit from various forms of city subsidies.
Yes, we want to help the poor, but I’ll always remember my former boss and mentor at CMHC who was troubled by the ‘poor’ moving into government subsidized low income housing such as the False Creek Coop, who he considered ‘the deliberate poor’!
They were not the downtrodden, unfortunate souls who had been dealt a bad hand, or experienced difficulties due to marital abuse, disabilities, family tragedy, etc.
No, they were well educated, healthy people who had made a deliberate choice to take on low paying careers …they were academics, musicians, writers, artists, and others happy with low paying jobs. He was very troubled when they got to move into some of the best new government subsidized housing on well located city and provincially owned lands.
In summary, there are a lot of people in the city who have had considerable experience in the public and private devlopment of various forms of market and non-market housing. People like Cameron Gray, Michael Goldberg, David Podmore, and Al Poettker immediately come to mind. I hope they and others who like me have experienced both successes and failures will participate in future discussions on how best to translate the Mayor's broad policy objectives and goals into detailed, practical action plans.