On the evening of December 12 Vancouver City Council held a public hearing on the first three developments of the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program.
Following the hearings, the first two projects were approved unanimously. Council is continuing to hear from the public on the third project and will make a decision on that shortly.
The following are the remarks of VDLC President Stephen von Sychowski at the public hearing this evening.
My name is Stephen von Sychowski. I am speaking here today in my capacity as President of the Vancouver and District Labour Council – which represents roughly 60,000 unionized workers in Vancouver and the surrounding area.
I am here to speak in favour of rezoning 2543-2583 Renfrew Street and 2895 East 10th Avenue.
We understand that this rezoning is one of three being discussed today as part of the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program.
It is no secret to anyone that Vancouver is in dire need of additional housing stock. More specifically, of affordable rental stock for individuals in lower to moderate income brackets.
The fact of the matter is, building expensive housing will never lead to more affordable housing. The trickle-down effect that some people talk about has not happened.
Instead what we have seen as housing prices have soared in recent years is that more and more working people have been forced to move further east and commute into the city to work.
This leads to worsening congestion, and additional environmental impacts as many who live further east find themselves forced to drive due to lack of public transit availability in less central areas.
Our support for these developments is therefore somewhat critical. We applaud efforts to create more affordable housing units. However, 20% is a low number and while these units will be affordable for those making 35-80,000 per year it is unclear how many will be for the lower end of that range. We do applaud the vacancy control that will be in place for the life of the building, that is an important feature of any affordable housing development.
We are living in an affordability crisis. We need more housing that allows workers to live in the city they work in, and we need it urgently. We need a city that provides homes for all, and neighbourhoods for everyone. In so far as this will deliver some units to that end, we are supportive.
A recent study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives urged the publicly funded construction of 10,000 units of non-market affordable housing per year in Metro Vancouver.
This number was based on the annual growth in the population and backlogged demand for housing from the homeless, low-income seniors, immigrants, and refugees.
We agree with this proposal. All levels of government need to step up and begin the mass construction of non-market affordable housing to solve the housing crisis as quickly as possible. We cannot continue to wait for market-based solutions to fix the problem that they ultimately caused.
All levels of government should be reminded – housing is not a privilege. It is a right, for all. That’s not just a platitude, it’s a provision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – to which Canada is a signatory.
To deny access to housing based upon income or any other factor is a violation of fundamental human rights, and it must stop.
If the private sector cannot or will not build the housing that we need to guarantee this right to all, then government must step in.
We also must talk about how these projects will be built, whether by private developers as in this case, or publicly.
That’s because another piece of the puzzle in the affordability crisis is the long-term suppression of wages and working conditions across our economy during recent decades.
We need affordable housing, but we also need good, secure jobs, with living wages if we want to have a good quality of life for our residents and a strong economy.
That’s why we also say that if approved, this project and all housing projects, should be constructed using unionized, ticketed tradespersons working under community benefit agreements.
By doing so you will be ensuring the creation of good jobs for local residents, much needed apprenticeship opportunities, and application of an equity lens to the project, and quality work which is statistically performed on-schedule and without disruption much better than in comparison to projects without community benefit agreements.
I am happy discuss any of these points further with any or all of you, and to provide additional information.
Please approve these projects and continue to work together to provide the housing that this city desperately needs. Thank you very much for your time.