Vision Vancouver-dominated city council voted yesterday, Tues Dec 13, to approve the terms of reference for a so-called “affordability task force.” The task force will consult developers, financiers, architects, and other members of Vancouver’s real estate oligopoly — the very interests responsible for the city’s permanent housing bubble and for the city’s culture of rent gouging — in order to produce policy recommendations by March 2012.

Earlier this week, before the terms of reference were even approved by council, Mayor Robertson announced that the task force would be co-chaired by himself and ‘multimillionaire’ developer Olga Ilich.

Olga Ilich is a firmly entrenched member of the lower-mainland’s real estate oligopoly. Ilich is founder and president of Suncor Development Corporation. Most inappropriately, she was president of the Urban Development Institute (UDI), which is the development industry’s primary lobby organization. The UDI lobbies City Hall regularly to destroy and gentrify low-income neighborhoods, to over-ride local community planning processes, and to undermine renters rights.

Ilich is also a BC Liberal. She was a cabinet minister under Gordon Campbell from 2006-2009. News articles about Ilich’s appointment in other publications (The Sun, 24hours, The Straight, Observer, etc) refrain from mentioning the words “BC Liberal” and “Gordon Campbell,” downplaying these connections in order to protect Gregor Robertson from criticism from the left. When the NPA appointed BC Liberal insider, and Gordon Campbell confidante, Geoff Plant to run project civil city, progressives in Vancouver denounced the decision in the strongest terms. But now that Robertson has made an equivalent appointment, progressives seem committed to self-censorship, amnesia, and capitulation.

Certainly the appointment of Ilich sends a strong message to the city’s elite, and especially to the development industry. The message? “Don’t worry, we have put a BC Liberal, multimillionaire developer, UDI president in charge. Nothing will happen that creates true affordability. Prices will not go down. Profits will not go down. Corporate taxes will not go up. All solutions will be private solutions. The real estate industry will remain in the driver’s seat. There will be no new public housing. Don’t worry, dear developers who donated over a million dollars to Vision’s election campaign. Thank you, developers — this is our repayment to you!”

Here Sean Antrim and Tristan Markle of the Mainlander interview Adriane Carr and Stuart Mackinnon of Vancouver’s Civic Green Party. Mackinnon is an incumbent Parks Board Commissioner, and is running for re-election. Carr is a candidate for City Council. On June 26 2011, the Civic Greens rejected Vision/COPE’s offer of only one candidate spot as part of a joint slate. Instead, the Greens are running three independent candidates – one for Council, one for Parks Board, and one for School Board. The election takes place Nov 19 2011.

Sean Antrim: What are you going to do to make Vancouver an affordable City?

Adriane Carr: That’s a big question. It has to be answered, and I want to really focus on that. It’s not an easy set of solutions, because we’ve had programs like EcoDensity from the NPA and the STIR program from Vision, neither are delivering affordable housing. These programs are also creating social conflict, with spot rezonings for incredibly high towers where they don’t fit. People are upset.To get affordable housing you have to work within the zoning that’s there so we don’t get the social conflict. People are okay with four storey or six storey or even smaller high-rises if it fits in with the neighbourhood. So let’s get that straight.

There are incentives that are being offered to developers that include density incentives that I think should be off the table. There are other incentives that could bring down the cost of housing. Those incentives might include reducing parking requirements in areas where you have good transit. You have to make a deal with the developers that says, if we give you these incentives, the cost of construction is going to come down, and that will be passed on, in a lower cost of housing, whether it’s rental or not.

We’ve also got incredibly strong lobbying from the City to the federal government to reinstate the kind of tax breaks that enticed developers to build intentional rental housing. I’ve talked to developers about whether or not that would work, and they’ve said yes, especially if you include some ongoing tax breaks for upgrading and maintaining rental housing, because it’s hard for delopers to say “I could build this condo unit, sell the unit off, make a bundle, or do I build this rental housing unit which has ongoing costs.”

You have to entice private investors, you have to put those tax breaks in place. One idea that Stuart and I have talked about is creating some of those affordable units in neighbourhoods along the transit corridors, near shopping and community centres already are, and create them in a variety of sizes and types so that people who are reaching retirement can sell a home that’s too big and move in to a unit that’s in the neighbourhood they love. We don’t have that in Vancouver right now, that level of affordable housing for every stage of the life cycle.

Tristan Markle: Where are some neighbourhoods or areas where that might work?

Adrianne Carr: You name one it will work. I can’t think of a place in Vancouver where there aren’t people who would relish the chance to do that. Dunbar, Marpole, East Vancouver, all over this city. We are an aging population. There are people who have homes that are too big. Those corridors exist.

Stuart Mackinnon: Look at Renfrew or Nanaimo, that’s a really good example where there are smaller homes. The population in that area is aging. Nanaimo and Renfrew are fairly busy corridors, and people don’t necessarily want a house along there, but you could build town-houses or lower-density buildings and get a lot more people in that neighbourhood, and those people are going to stay there. That’s what makes a neighbourhood strong.

Tristan Markle: I have a tough one now about the Downtown Eastside. Ellen Woodsworth just came out in favor of a moratorium on condo development in the DTES until the community plan is in place, with a strategy for housing people. I was wondering if you had a response.

Vancouver’s two developer-funded parties, the NPA and Vision, are identical on core policy issues. Both put developers before people, and hold their breath for the market to solve our affordability and homelessness crisis. With an election on the horizon, the NPA is desperately attempting to distinguish themselves from their Vision doppelganger. In the absence of substantive differences, much is made of minor sideshows, especially environmental ones. The NPA first opposed backyard chickens, then eschewed downtown bike lanes, and recently denounced the Greenest City Neighbourhood Grants program.

But now the riot has given the NPA a new way to frame its opposition to these environmental sideshows. The NPA team is arguing that the mayor was too distracted by environmental concerns to pre-empt the Stanley Cup riot. But it is the NPA who is directing the sideshow, and it is the public who is distracted. Even with respect to the riot there is little meaningful difference between the NPA and Vision. Despite criticizing the Mayor for inviting masses of people into a confined area downtown, it was an NPA candidate who proposed the idea. He even claimed that opening up BC place stadium could be paid for through food and alcohol sales. At bottom, the NPA’s claim is that it would have implemented a different crowd management strategy involving more aggressive policing. Looking to history, we saw the results of such an approach in 1994 when riots exploded under the nose of NPA Mayor Phillip Owen: police over-reaction led to more cracked heads than windows.