In a mayoral election campaign that has arguably focused largely on smear tactics and lawsuits at the expense of setting out policy, where do the three mayoral candidates for Vancouver stand on housing and affordability?
Vancouver’s voters say that this is the most important topic in the election, according to new Insights West survey results issued November 10, but recent media coverage of campaign donations, accusations of impropriety and associated legal action has overshadowed debate on the subject.
Ahead of the final mayoral vote on Saturday, November 15, here is a rundown of each of the candidates’ proposed policies on housing and affordability.
Gregor Robertson, Vision Vancouver
Vision’s mayoral incumbent Gregor Robertson has been vocal on his two-pronged approach to housing in the city. He has acknowledged the unaffordability of real estate in the city and has said that Vision Vancouver will continue with its plan to build more rental housing, promising 1,000 units per year for the next four years. So far this approach has drawn criticism, with the new units that are already built renting out for up to $1,400 for a studio. However, Vision’s idea is that increased supply will free space in older buildings and make renting easier and more affordable.
On the purchase side, Vision’s plan is to allow developers to increase the density of new home projects, with the proviso that 35 per cent of new units built are “family-sized” – up from the current required 25 per cent. This is intended increase the supply of larger homes for families who cannot afford Vancouver’s expensive single-family homes.
Robertson has also said that the city will carry out its promised study of foreign investment in Vancouver real estate, with results expected in 2015.
Kirk LaPointe, Non-Partisan Association
Mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe seems to have shied away from making any assertive campaign promises on housing in Vancouver, focusing instead on promises to carry out studies on supply and demand, demographics and foreign investment, to assess the situation before he can find any solutions to what he acknowledges is an affordability problem. The NPA website does say the party plans to "increase the supply of family and seniors' housing through an updated CityPlan that engages neighbourhoods" and to create guidelines for community-amenity contributions from developers.
LaPointe has also said that he wants to focus on making Vancouver a world-class head-office city, bringing in higher paying jobs so people have more money and can afford to live in the city. In addition, he has said he also aims to work with the province and federal governments to create a tax credit for new rental housing.
Meena Wong, Coalition of Progressive Electors
Probably Meena Wong’s most popular and most controversial policy is her pledge to place a tax on vacant properties by policing their use through hydro monitoring, home use reporting, surveys and spot inspections. Her policy has been widely supported by the public but also heavily criticized as impractical and bureaucratic. Wong also intends to impose a luxury tax on homes worth more than $2 million. COPE will use that money to fund the building of more than 800 units of city-owned housing per year.
Wong told REW.ca’s sister publication Business in Vancouver, “We want to build more affordable housing on city-owned lands by contracting builders to build them. We’re not going to stop people from building buildings in Vancouver, we’re going to build it with consultation with neighbourhoods, with businesses, and in the form that the neighbourhood can accept.”