Vancouver’s recently approved Downtown Eastside neighbourhood plan has raised concerns over the definition of social housing and the plan’s ability to stop – or even slow – gentrification. Low-income advocates and others expressed frustration that the significant 30-year plan was rushed through City Council.
On the podcast, we hear from low-income advocate Tamara Herman (Carnegie Community Action Project), Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson (courtesy of City Hall Watch), Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr, and urban planning/geography PhD student and researcher Melissa Fong.
An in-depth interview with Vancouver Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr covering everything from affordable housing and transportation to her run-in with the City Manager and Vision Vancouver
Adriane Carr is the first-ever elected Green Party councillor in Vancouver. Councillor Carr has been in the news a lot these days, most recently for her run-in with the City Manager and Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Councillor Geoff Meggs. She has been – and continues to be – a vocal critic of the Vision Vancouver-dominated City Council. In an in-depth interview, we discuss her concerns around the creation of city-subsidized market rental housing (STIR/Rental 100) and what she believes to be as Vision Vancouver’s attempt to redefine ‘affordable’ housing.
She has also been highly critical of the Vancouver Park Board and Vision-supported proposed joint operating agreement which would centralize funding distribution, among other changes, for community centre associations. She attempted to put a motion before Council to ask staff to explore the potential financial ramifications of this plan. Her motion was denied by the City Manager and Vision Vancouver, which we discuss. In addition, we talk about the city’s development trajectory and issues around transportation, and specifically, along the Broadway corridor.
How is a billionaire mining magnate involved in Vancouver’s new rent bank?
The City critically unpacks the recently launched Vancouver rent bank with the editors of The Mainlander. Editors Tristan Markle, Andrew Witt, and Nathan Crompton recently published an in-depth, and highly critical analysis of the rent bank. We discuss a seemingly progressive institution – the rent bank – and look at the history of who is financially involved in the program, why it matters, and if the rent bank is actually as innocent as it may seem. We look at the issue of charity versus justice in our neoliberal times, and we turn to renowned political philosopher Slavoj Zizek for some assistance in understanding the role of charity in society today.
Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Task Force on Housing Affordability avoided using Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) definition of “affordable housing” in their final report (“Bold Ideas for an Affordable City”), instead opting for a flexible and vague definition of housing affordability. In the glossary (page 40) of the task force’s final report, “affordable housing” is defined as housing that
can be provided by the City, government, non-profit, community and for-profit partners. It can be found or developed along the whole housing continuum, and include SROs, market rental and affordable home ownership. The degree of housing affordability results from the relationship between the cost of housing and household income. It is not a static concept, as housing costs and incomes change over time.
This definition stands in contrast to the widely accepted definition provided by CMHC, and widely accepted in Canada:
The cost of adequate shelter should not exceed 30% of household income. Housing which costs less than this is considered affordable. However, consumers, housing providers and advocacy organizations tend to use a broader definition of affordability.
While Vision Vancouver Mayor Robertson’s Task Force is arguing that it is not a “static concept”, the CMHC and others would argue that it is indeed a static and stable concept at this point in time. The point of the Task Force’s exercise was to address housing affordability for households at this point in time based on a current definition of what affordability is for households.
Arguing that affordability is not a static concept only opens the door for the real estate and development industry, as well as developer-backed political parties, to define what affordability is. Housing affordability is based on household income, which, yes does indeed change based on income level, but is static at 30% of household income. Furthermore, housing policy experts and analysts have argued that housing expenditures beyond 20% of household income for low-income households is excessive, and thus not affordable.
By refusing to define “affordability” consistent with the widely accepted CMHC standard, the task force’s final report is fundamentally flawed. And moreover, we are no closer to establishing an evaluative criteria for which progress towards greater affordability can be based. Again, we are witnessing a developer-dominated housing task force and municipal party catering to the development industry in another flamboyant exercise in political spectacle with the release of this report, which amounts to little more than regurgitated neoliberal policymaking at a time when we need a transformative, progressive political agenda.