By Mark Marissen
Healthy cities need a strong middle class. Unfortunately for us, Vancouver is well on its way to becoming a city for the very rich and the very poor.
If, like me, you want Vancouver to be a home for middle-class families, it’s high time we acted urgently.
Most young families in Vancouver can only hope to own a home if they have wealthy parents. And, when looking for a place to rent, they have very few options that offer them any long-term security.
They are not the only ones feeling defeated.
Most of our essential workers – our nurses, firefighters, paramedics, police officers, our children’s teachers – have given up on the dream of owning or renting a home in our city and are increasingly estranged from the people they argue, looking for an affordable price.
So many people who were once the heart and soul of our neighborhoods are now stuck in their cars, driving in from the suburbs, with no choice but to pollute everyone’s air, forcing us to build more and more freeways. longer than we all have to pay, jeopardizing everyone’s quality of life.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Before we talk about solutions, it’s important that we all recognize the fact that single-family homes in Vancouver will probably never again be available to middle-class families who don’t have access to a large inheritance.
If we want Vancouver to be a city for middle-class families, we need to build homes they can afford. Homes closer to school and work, and with more opportunities for recreation and a healthy lifestyle. Homes that mean less travel time and more time to live. We also need residences for seniors that are in the neighborhoods where they grew up.
We need these homes, close to schools and public transport, and we need them now.
We also need to create a regulatory environment that supports the creation of more co-ops and non-profit housing.
Our housing shortage affects everyone in this city.
Indeed, regardless of Vancouver’s central role in the region, on most residential land in the city it is still illegal to build the types of housing we need. And in the few places where it is allowed, owners are drawn for years into a Kafkaesque maze for even some of the most common approvals.
This ongoing housing shortage is due, in part, to the slowness or unwillingness to act at our Vancouver City Hall.
It’s time for courage and leadership.
As mayor, I will work tirelessly to reform our outdated land use policies and urgently clean up our byzantine permitting processes so we can build the homes we need.
Here are some family-friendly housing policies we are working on:
Use as much city-owned (non-park) land as possible to provide mixed-income and family-oriented affordable housing, through a new agency called Vancouver Civic Housing Corporation. I will be speaking to those on the front lines of the housing shortage crisis over the next few months to better define the mandate of this Crown corporation and how this housing will most effectively be delivered. But one thing is certain: it cannot just be another layer of bureaucracy – it must deliver results, moving at the speed of the private sector. Vancouver’s unique challenges demand our own dedicated approach, guided by pragmatism, not ideology.
These are just a few ideas. There will be many more discussion topics in the coming months, and we’ll be sharing them for feedback as we develop our platform, which will be announced closer to the October election.
I believe Vancouver’s best days are still ahead of us if we make the right decisions today. Too much time has already been lost.
If we choose progress, that is, electing people who will work together with open minds and hearts, we can really get things done, ensuring that families from all walks of life can contribute to the future of Vancouver for decades to come.