Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Mayor's Task Force on Housing Affordability: the story behind the story

So often we read stories in the newspaper without any idea how they originate. For example....

At the Inauguration of Vancouver's new City Council, the Mayor announced the creation of a task force to examine how the City might address housing affordability. This was was followed by the announcement that Olga Ilich, a developer and former UDI President and BC Cabinet Minister would co-chair. I was curious to know who the other co-chair would be until I was told this would be the Mayor.

Following the announcement I was often asked if I had been invited to serve on the Task Force. I hadn't been, but would serve if selected, adding that this initiative could lead to some significant results if it focuses on what the City can do, rather than on what the Feds and Province should do. I also thought it would be important to have balanced representation with experienced people from the broader housing industry.

I didn't give the Task Force much further thought until last week when I received a call from the Georgia Straight's Carlito Pablo. While I don't know him well, he is someone I have often spoken to over the past few years on housing and real estate matters. He wanted to know if my name had been put forward for the committe, or if I had submitted my resume. He added that the deadline was Friday January 6th.

I was very surprised by his call since I wasn't aware potential Task Force members were expected to nominate themselves. Certainly no one from the City had advised me of this, and presumably other potential candidates were equally ignorant. However I told Carlito that I would put my name forward, along with those of two other people who I thought could make a significant contribution....Cameron Gray, the city's former 'Director of Housing' and Bob Ransford who has written about housing for the Vancouver Sun for the past ten years, and who I believe has a very good grasp of the issues.

I added that I feared that by talking to him, I was likely reducing my chances of being appointed to the Task Force, and that he could quote me!

After hanging up, I reviewed the committee's Terms of Reference and submitted two letters; one confirming my interest in serving, and one recommending Cameron and Bob.

I subsequently received an acknowledgement of my letters along with the suggestion that if Cameron and Bob wanted to serve, they had to submit their own letters and resumes.

My understanding is that due to travel plans in February, Cameron has decided not to apply, but will offer to serve as an advisor and share 'institutional memory', if asked. Hopefully Bob will submit his credentials.

While Carlito didn't quote my fear I might reduce my chance of being selected by talking to him, below is the story he wrote. Now you know the story behind the story! At least my version!

Experts step up as potential appointees to Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability

Comments (2)

By Carlito Pablo, January 4, 2012

Michael Geller wears many hats. A number of them are related to housing development. He’s an architect, planner, real-estate consultant, and property developer. He’s also on the adjunct faculty of SFU’s Centre for Sustainable Community Development.

Geller believes that he can help ease the housing situation in Vancouver. That’s the reason he’s putting forward his name as a potential appointee to the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability.

On December 13, council unanimously approved the terms of reference for this task force that is cochaired by Mayor Gregor Robertson, a former NDP MLA, and Olga Ilich, a developer and an ex–B.C. Liberal cabinet member.

Robertson and Ilich will select experts from various fields based on submissions from the public. The deadline for recommendations is Friday (January 6).

A former federal government manager for social housing, Geller knows what to do if he gets tapped for the group.

“The first thing I would say is let’s focus on what the city can do, not focus on what the province and the federal government should do,” Geller told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
Geller said that he will also submit the names of other experts like Cameron Gray, a former director of the city’s housing centre. He also plans to recommend Bob Ransford, a former director of the Vancouver-based Urban Development Institute and ex–federal Conservative strategist.


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