* Photo credit: David Vaisbord, The Little Mountain Project *
An updated Little Mountain Policy is coming to Vancouver City Council today, June 27 2012. The most notable issue is that the developer, Holborn, is now openly challenging the cornerstone of the project: that the proceeds of the land sale should fund the 224 ‘replacement’ social housing units onsite.
In 2007, the City and the Province agreed that ‘replacement’ social units — to house the 600 people dislocated by the Little Mountain demolition — would be funded from the sale of the land to a developer. The language in the agreement was unambiguous: “Whether the Site is rezoned or not, BC Housing will replace the existing 224 units of social housing on site … BC Housing will invest all of the net proceeds from the sale of the Site (after the existing social housing is replaced on site) into the development of social housing throughout the province. Half the net proceeds (after the existing social housing is replaced) will be invested in the City of Vancouver.” (For an analysis of the offsite housing, please see the article Myth of the 14 Sites by Nathan Crompton).
After signing this clear agreement, the Province then chose Holborn Properties Ltd. as the project’s developer. These two parties entered into a separate agreement involving sale of the land to Holborn. However, the terms of the agreement, including the dollar value of the land sale, have been kept from the public.
The City’s developer task force released another interim report today — a follow-up to the previous very preliminary interim report (see The Mainlander‘s analysis here).
Although the latest proposal and its ideas remain in draft form, the document contains a couple of substantial policy proposals, including a municipal Housing Authority and a Land Bank. These are two very good ideas, but the question remains: will the proposals actually be implemented? If so, will it be at a scale capable of meeting the demand for real affordable housing? Will it be done in a way that benefits residents and communities instead of private developers?
The Housing Authority proposal is a good idea, but not a new idea. For example, the City of Vancouver Public Housing Corporation has existed since the 1980s. But it has been so inactive that it owns only a dozen buildings, most of them in the Downtown Eastside. For this reason, The Mainlander has been consistently arguing in favour of a reactivated and robust Housing Authority. During the 2011 civic election campaign, Vision and the NPA did not endorse a Housing Authority. COPE was the only party to do so.
It is surely a step in the right direction to start talking about what a reactivated Housing Authority will look like. The trick is to make it powerful enough to make a real difference. For that to happen, the devil is in the details. And today’s interim report is weak on details. It floats the idea of a hypothetical “City-owned entity, such as a Housing Authority, [which] could enable the City to deliver on its objectives for social and affordable rental housing.”
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.
This past Monday, April 23rd, all three voting members of the Vancouver Development Permit Board (DPB) voted in favor of the ‘Sequel 138’ condo project on Hastings, next to the Carnegie Centre and across from Insite.
The decision to push through the gentrification project was made beforehand by senior city staff at the direction of the Mayor’s Office. Nevertheless, the city went through the motions of holding a DPB meeting to listen to community concerns. The meeting lasted 7 hours, from 3pm to 10pm, with about 50 community members giving speeches. Almost all delegations passionately opposed the project.
After seven hours of delegations, not one member of the DP Board or its Advisory Panel engaged in discussion or posed any further questions of staff for clarification. The Board moved immediately into a vote. First, the nine members of the Advisory Panel gave their advice. The only member of the nine-member Advisory Panel not personally associated with the development industry, Duncan Wlodarczak of SFU’s Sustainability Centre, spoke for deferring the decision until “rate of change” mechanisms are in place to address the balance between market and non-market development in the DTES, as outlined in the DTES Housing Plan. One other member Advisory Panel member, Jasminka Miletic-Prelovac, spoke in favor of deferral until the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan (LAP) is in place next year.