This article was originally posted at timlouis.ca
Much of the past century saw a winning-streak by the right wing NPA, Vancouver’s historic party of wealth and privilege. Pundits talk about Vision Vancouver’s interruption of that NPA legacy, and there has even been talk of the disintegration of the NPA “brand.” By winning two consecutive terms in municipal office, Vision is said to be taking Vancouver in a new, progressive direction.
Both the voting record and the policy agenda of the last four years under Vision reveal that the perceived interruption of NPA rule is a patent illusion. The reality is that Vision’s core policy agenda has been a carry-over from previous NPA initiatives. Eco-density, the Tax Shift, the Chinatown Height Review, increased police budgets and heightened ticketing – for anyone who digs into recent history, these seemingly contemporary initiatives are relics of Sam Sullivan’s 2005-2008 term.
Despite appearances, NPA’s platform is today found front and center, fashioned with a different, greener logo – and with the exception of those bike lanes. On all issues since 2008, Vision and the NPA have voted as a unified block minus the bike lanes.
Eco-density in particular (an NPA initiative under Sullivan) has been slammed down the throats of neighborhoods since Vision’s election in 2008. Rather than forcing monopoly developers to use their empty parcels of land, Vision has used the key tools of NPA ‘revitalization’ policy – area rezoning, tax breaks and fee exemptions – to facilitate the gentrification of existing affordable neighborhoods. Poverty and homelessness are worse then ever, matched in their scale only by the profits of the developers and land owners.
This article was originally posted at timlouis.ca
This week, City Councillors will be returning to City Hall from their summer break. One of the first orders of business will be to consider a large-scale condo development in the Downtown Eastside Hastings Corridor, directly across from the Raycam Community Centre and Stamp’s Place social housing.
The applicant for the project – Vision financial backer Wall Financial Group – is planning to build three 12-storey condo buildings on the site at 955 East Hastings Street. If approved, the project will total 352 units of housing. 282 of the units are proposed as market strata units, with the remaining 70 units planned as rental housing run and owned by the City of Vancouver as “social housing.”
As with the Sequel 138 project at Main and Hastings – where the city will be renting its social housing at a rate of $900/month – the majority of the 70 “social housing” units in this new Wall development will be well out of reach for low-income people. City staff are recommending to council that they rent the majority of these “social housing” units at market rates.
Originally published at timlouis.ca
While the world watches the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London with excitement and enthusiasm, now is the perfect time to reflect on the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, and to draw conclusions that the two years that have passed allow us to draw.
In the years leading up to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, many promises were made in an effort to win over public support. One of the most important promises was the delivery of social housing – lots of social housing. By the time the negotiations and roundtables leading up to the Vancouver Olympics were over, there was a concrete promise that if the city hosted the 2010 Olympics, there would be a Housing Legacy with over 3,200 units of social housing constructed prior to the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. With the benefit of hindsight we now know that this commitment was hollow. Not one unit was built in time for the Games, and after the big event the idea of a Housing Legacy was dropped.
Those who study the Olympics have documented the enormous amount of public money the Games absorb – not for the benefit of the community but for the benefit of the large corporations that earn sizable contracts and countless benefits. London is in many ways a spitting repeat of Vancouver. In both cities, the promised Olympic Village housing was shrewdly converted into a private gain for investors at the expense of taxpayers. In the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008, the municipal governments of London and Vancouver both stepped in as a lenders of last resort for their respective Olympic Village developments, resulting in massive bailouts for investors and developers.
The Georgia Straight recently published a cover story titled “Sullivanism versus Jane Jacobs”, detailing former NPA Mayor Sam Sullivan’s continuing efforts to push high-rise densification onto the city. In the article, Sullivan praises former Mayor Tom “Terrific” Campbell’s reign of free market ideology.
The issues are clear. Do we let capitalism run roughshod over democratic processes and the sovereignty of neighborhoods, or will citizens determine their own destiny? Will corporate forces continue to undo the careful central planning and human-focused building which has been a priority of COPE elected officials since the party was established in 1968, or will grassroots forces take power back from the corporate firms? Will more neighborhoods become resorts for the rich, or will we protect and promote affordable housing across the city?
Sam Sullivan wants to dump neighbourhood plans that have taken more than a decade to develop. He wants to allow spot zoning that will force neighborhoods to fight constant battles. He wants to allow developers to keep windfall profits from upzonings. He wants to rush through development proposals without looking at community impacts. He has been bringing apologists for global capitalism from Manhattan and Harvard to support him. He somehow believes that concrete manufacturing, which is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases in the region, is good for the environment.