Sylvester ad­vances her hous­ing so­lu­tions

The Georgia Straight - - Housing -

An in­de­pen­dent may­oral can­di­date has unveiled a six-pronged ap­proach in re­sponse to Van­cou­ver’s short­age and high cost of hous­ing. The first plank in Shauna Sylvester’s plat­form is to map all com­mu­nity as­sets—in­clud­ing land, com­mu­nity cen­tres, schools, and neigh­bour­hood houses—to “con­sider how they can be mo­bi­lized” to help ad­dress the hous­ing cri­sis.

Sylvester, an SFU pro­fes­sor of pub­lic prac­tice, has pledged to im­me­di­ately direct the $2 bil­lion in the city’s af­ford­able-hous­ing fund to the com­mu­nity-hous­ing sec­tor to pro­vide pur­pose-built rental ac­com­mo­da­tion.

“I will use my net­works and 30 years of work­ing with fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments to lever­age their sup­port, as well as other as­sets like pen­sion funds or part­ner­ships with faith com­mu­ni­ties, phil­an­thropic en­ti­ties, or fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions to build the hous­ing we need,” she said in a speech un­veil­ing her pro­pos­als.

Sylvester has also pledged to make the city the

North Amer­i­can

“cap­i­tal” of co-ops and co­hous­ing. She pointed out that these mod­els “nur­ture stronger, health­ier com­mu­ni­ties” yet noted that the Con­naught Hous­ing Co-op near False Creek took seven years to gain ap­proval.

“We need to cut the red tape and pro­vide mech­a­nisms to en­cour­age more of this form of healthy com­mu­nity hous­ing,” she said.

One of her prom­ises is to re­new leases on all co-ops in her first year as mayor to pro­tect ex­ist­ing af­ford­able hous­ing. And she has ar­gued in favour of “medium-dense” projects of up to four storeys on two to three lots.

“Co-ops rec­og­nize the need to phase in re­de­vel­op­ment and cre­ate more co-op hous­ing on their land,” she stated. “They are ex­pe­ri­enced de­vel­op­ers who un­der­stand how to im­ple­ment a plan while min­i­miz­ing the dis­rup­tion on their com­mu­ni­ties.”

Sylvester also wants the city to pro­vide land for co-ops to “mo­bi­lize their cap­i­tal” to pro­vide more hous­ing.

Her other pro­pos­als in­clude “build­ing hous­ing for hu­mans at a hu­man scale”. By that, she means pro­vid­ing al­ter­na­tives to condo tow­ers and man­sions on large lots.

“We will bring fam­i­lies and kids back into neigh­bour­hoods by mak­ing room for peo­ple, not just de­mol­ish­ing and re­build­ing lux­ury houses,” she de­clared. “But sim­ply adding more sup­ply is not go­ing to bring the af­ford­abil­ity we need.

“We can­not up­zone the en­tire city with­out also pro­vid­ing an af­ford­abil­ity mech­a­nism,” she con­tin­ued. “By do­ing so, we just make sin­gle­fam­ily home­own­ers wealth­ier. We need to cap­ture some of that wealth and re­di­rect it to af­ford­abil­ity.”

In Sylvester’s view, one way to ac­com­plish this is by al­low­ing “gen­tle den­si­fi­ca­tion” on home­own­ers’ sin­gle-fam­ily lots, per­haps by adding three to four storeys that still re­spect the neigh­bour­hood’s char­ac­ter and re­tain the tree canopy. She main­tained that those home­own­ers who do this to add hous­ing would see their per­mit ap­pli­ca­tions fast-tracked.

How­ever, be­cause their prop­er­ties would be­come more valu­able through this process, these home­own­ers would be re­quired to pay a com­mu­nity-amenity con­tri­bu­tion to the city, just as de­vel­op­ers al­ready do when they seek ad­di­tional den­sity from city coun­cil.

“Go­ing for­ward, the city would be very trans­par­ent in lay­ing out the rules and the rate of the CAC,” Sylvester in­sisted. “The CAC will then be ded­i­cated to rental as­sis­tance or put into an af­ford­able-hous­ing fund to cre­ate more af­ford­able rental hous­ing.”

Van­cou­ver al­ready has a hous­ing author­ity, but Sylvester has ad­vo­cated cre­at­ing a se­ries of “tar­geted” au­thor­i­ties to pro­vide hous­ing to work­ers in spe­cific sec­tors, such as ed­u­ca­tion, re­tail, ser­vices, and emer­gency re­sponse.

“In my first year in of­fice, I will work in part­ner­ship with key em­ploy­ers, unions, and com­mu­ni­ty­ser­vice groups to identify op­por­tu­ni­ties for cre­at­ing vi­able hous­ing au­thor­i­ties that en­sure work­ers have se­cure and af­ford­able hous­ing in the city in which they work,” she said.

The fi­nal two planks in her hous­ing plat­form are com­plet­ing com­mu­nity plans for dif­fer­ent neigh­bour­hoods in the city and fast­track­ing “smarter, faster de­ci­sions to lower hous­ing costs and get roofs over peo­ple’s heads”.

“For ex­am­ple, we will get rid of min­i­mum park­ing re­quire­ments and look at a set cri­te­ria that en­ables car-shar­ing, elec­tric-ve­hi­cle charg­ing within ur­ban build­ings and on the street, and ex­panded cy­cling stor­age,” Sylvester said.

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