Saturday, February 4, 2012

CHBABC Housing Affordability Symposium

I spent Thursday afternoon and Friday at a symposium organized by the Canadian Home Builders of BC that was designed to identify actions that the public, private and non-profit sectors could undertake to improve housing affordability in different regions of the province. This was the second event of its kind, and a very good publication and various presentations from the first event are on line. More information can be found here: check out the 'Resources' link for some excellent background documents.

This year's program was moderated by Gwyn Symmons of CitySpaces who is very accomplished and kept the program moving. A variety of speakers from different parts of Canada participated including Bob Ransford who tried to debunk some of the myths surrounding affordable housing; representatives of Saskatoon and Calgary who described what their cities are doing on public land; the senior planner from Langford BC which is doing some very remarkable things; and Michel Labbe who developed the very innovative Options for Homes program in Toronto....a form of shared equity ownership which is reaching some remarkably low income people.

I have to say I was very impressed with many of the speakers and ideas presented. As I tweeted out on a couple of occasions, many of the housing innovations I would like to see happen in the City of Vancouver are already happening in places like Langford and Vernon and Surrey...yes Surrey!

I made a joint presentation with Tsur Somerville of UBC. Tsur is an academic, but a very bright academic and his comments during my presentation added considerably to what I had to say. While I don't have a recorded version, here is my presentation which was based on the 12 affordable housing ideas I presented in my recent Christmas Card, followed by 5 other ideas that were too complex for the card, but most important.

A couple of final comments. A number of politicians gave very good presentations. Rich Coleman was particularly effective with his forthright comments about his government's efforts and his concerns with what has been happening at the municipal level around the province. He expressed frustration with municipalities that ignore their Official Community Plans and bow to NIMBY pressures.

Mayor Richard Stewart of Coquitlam, who was active in the homebuilding industry prior to politics, also spoke about his frustrations with NIMBY attitudes and political reluctance to support measures to create affordable housing; and Geoff Meggs, who I have often labelled the brightest member of Vancouver City Council gave an excellent overview of what his city has been doing, and plans to do.

Sadly, and I hate to be too critical, not one member of Vancouver's housing department was in attendance. This is tragic, since the Vancouver Housing Dept is charged with some very significant responsibiilities over the next three years, and the key people have limited local experience and exposure to what is happening in the region and around the province. They would have gained immensely from the symposium.

I should note that new Councillor Adriane Carr attended for a portion of Friday's program.

I'm also disappointed with the media. Other than Susan Lazaruk of the Province and some CHBA media people, I am not aware of any other media in attendance. This too is most unfortunate since many of the ideas presented need to be more widely shared.

Here's my powerpoint presentation

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