By Kerry Gibson, Housing and Safety Convenor
On October 15th, 2022 Ken Sim was elected Mayor of Vancouver with primarily an ABC and OneCity slate. This may imply that the platforms of those dominating parties will reflect in upcoming developments regarding housing concerns in City Hall. The OneCity platform can be reviewed here and the ABC platform here . Neither platform is comprehensive, however both seem progressive-leaning.
CMHC has noted that housing development, particularly in the condominium sector, are down substantially (46%) as developers are hesitant to engage in projects that may not be as profitable as in the past. This may be problematic when considering Vancouver’s supply concerns, although this may correct as Ken Sim has a platform to execute on pre-existing relationships with the developers to see it through. Another hindrance, however, “There is insufficient labour capacity to address significant housing supply gaps in British Columbia,” the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported last week. The lack of skilled trades people has been problematic across all industries particularly through the pandemic. This may be an opportunity for contractors to be more inclusive in apprenticeship and hiring practices for women. Although the trades offer a secure and fairly stable economic opportunity for women, many women still report that male-dominated environments such as building sites are not welcoming and inclusive. A cultural shift would be welcomed to engage more women into trades positions, given the shortfall. Also, an assessment of immigration might be necessary to not necessarily prioritize those with post-graduate degrees but also those with qualified trades skills that are lacking locally. A shortage of tradespeople will result in an increase in labour costs, therefore an increase in development costs, which most likely will get incorporated into either rental or market pricing for the end consumer, which, without consideration or government intervention, will continue to decrease the opportunity for access to sustainable housing models.
Indigenous-led supportive housing is on the rise, as First Nations are striving for self-determination. For instance, in Terrace the Kitselas First Nation is building 40 new units, only 32 of which will be wheelchair accessible. Ahmed Hussen, federal minister of housing, promised better housing for Indigenous communities in announcing on October 13 more than $25 million in combined federal and provincial money for the project. Indigenous communities are no longer trusting government contractors, who can develop sub-standard and insubstantial housing, instead taking the reins and directing feasibility studies, contract negotiations, and vetting processes, suppliers, and contractors in order to co-design quality structures. However, while the federal government might be supportive, local coalitions may not be. For instance, in Kitsilano, two local community groups have filed complaints regarding the Squamish Nation development which will surely impede the process of the build.
The BC NDP has decided to exclude Anjali Appadurai from the NDP leadership race because of electoral violations. This may be a blessing in disguise, as the former Minister of Housing David Eby, who is aware of housing concerns throughout the province, will maintain his position as the future leader of the NDP party. Whether his understanding and learnings of the concerns will play a part in his leadership has yet to be determined.
Given the surge in violent crime, all levels of government are responding to public outcry, both financially and through policy development. Given the municipal mayoral candidate who platformed 100 new police officers and 100 new supplemental social workers to work alongside them was elected in Vancouver, the “defund the police” movement was overruled (sidebar, the original “defund the police” movement was intended to achieve just that…more social workers involved in police de-escalation). All levels of government are now in consultation to determine funding and programs to mitigate violent crime.