After a city council by-election campaign focused on housing, NPA candidate Hector Bremner secured 27.8% of the vote when polls concluded Saturday October 14.
Bremner, who ran for the BC Liberals in the 2013 election and has previously worked with former housing minister Rich Coleman, took the council seat that Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs vacated to become the BC Premier’s chief of staff.
Bremner’s victory is being celebrated by advocates of increased housing supply to help ease the city’s affordability crisis. The rookie councillor is pushing for wholesale rezoning of swathes of Vancouver to dramatically increase density.
The first aim in Bremner’s “bold plan to fix housing” – according to his campaign website – is “an end to piecemeal, building-by-building, lot-by-lot and project-by-project rezoning. This will be replaced with zoning changes over larger zoning areas within the city that will allow flexibility to achieve greater residential density and diversity.”
The plan also asserts, “The city will work to streamline the building approval process, to speed construction of new homes and move housing units to market faster…
“The city will be a leader regionally in setting and achieving drastically scaled up 10- and 25-year targets for housing supply, housing density, and housing diversity, from rental and family units to affordable and social housing.”
Housing supply advocacy group Abundant Housing congratulated Bremner, saying in a statement titled Pro-Housing Prevails, “We’re happy that Hector Bremner’s repeated calls to end exclusionary zoning carried the day.The majority of voters who voted for Hector Bremner and other pro-zoning-reform candidates demonstrate that there is an appetite among Vancouverites for legalizing all forms of housing in all neighbourhoods.”
However, at 27.8% of the vote, Bremner’s victory was far from a sweeping majority. The remaining vote was split among his rival candidates, with just over 21% voting for veteran social activist Jean Swanson, 20% supporting well-known Green Party candidate Pete Fry, and 13% backing homeless advocate Judy Graves.
It was a disappointing night for Vision Vancouver, whose largely unknown 21-year-old candidate Diego Cardona received just 11% of the vote.
Mayor Gregor Roberston told media on Saturday, “Tonight’s results are not what we hoped for. We heard that message loud and clear.”
However, with Robertson and City Hall recently approving more “missing middle” housing for Vancouverites – a key plank of Bremner’s housing-density campaign – there may be some synergies between the new councillor and the incumbent council’s goals.