Van­cou­ver’s pre­sale condo plan a re­ply to lack of pub­lic trust: of­fi­cial

The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) - - GLOBE BRITISH COLUMBIA - FRANCES BULA IAN BAI­LEY

A se­nior of­fi­cial in the of­fice of Mayor Gre­gor Robert­son has pri­vately ac­knowl­edged Van­cou­ver’s plan to give lo­cals a first crack at buy­ing pre­sale con­dos won’t do any­thing for af­ford­abil­ity, but was meant to re­duce pub­lic mis­trust as the city em­barks on a push to add new hous­ing.

Kevin Quin­lan, the mayor’s chief of staff, made the point in an e-mail to the lo­cal de­vel­op­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion.

“You’re right. It does noth­ing for af­ford­abil­ity and we have never said so,” Mr. Quin­lan said in an Oct. 10 note to Anne McMullin, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment In­sti­tute, af­ter she ob­jected, on be­half of in­dus­try mem­bers, that the an­nounce­ment was sprung on them.

“The is­sue is there’s a real lack of trust in the pub­lic when it comes to new de­vel­op­ment and who it is aimed at, and if the city is go­ing to move for­ward with a very sub­stan­tial in­crease in sup­ply, we need to ad­dress that,” said the e-mail, ob­tained by The Globe and Mail.

Mr. Quin­lan was un­avail­able for com­ment by press time.

The cor­re­spon­dence un­der­lines the pres­sure many mu­nic­i­pal, pro­vin­cial and fed­eral politi­cians are fac­ing to do some­thing about hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity.

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Some mem­bers of the pub­lic are blam­ing the city’s real es­tate problems on for­eign in­vest­ment. Oth­ers say for­eign in­vestors are be­ing un­fairly blamed. Mean­while, home­own­ers are con­cerned about los­ing eq­uity and as­pir­ing buy­ers are des­per­ate to get into the mar­ket.

Among the is­sues that bol­stered the elec­toral gains of the pro­vin­cial NDP this year was pub­lic dis­af­fec­tion with the way the for­mer pro­vin­cial Lib­eral govern­ment han­dled the hous­ing cri­sis. The NDP ran a cam­paign promis­ing ac­tion.

On Thurs­day, Premier John Hor­gan said his govern­ment will take some mea­sures to deal with spec­u­la­tion in B.C. prop­erty.

On the cam­paign trail, the NDP said it would im­pose a 2-per-cent tax on prop­erty spec­u­la­tors who don’t pay in­come tax in the prov­ince. The NDP’s cam­paign plat­form said rev­enue from the “ab­sen­tee spec­u­la­tors’ tax” would be di­rected into a hous­ing af­ford abil­ity fund that would sup­port rel­e­vant hous­ing ini­tia­tives for Bri­tish Columbians.

The gov­ern­ing agree­ment that com­mits the BC Green Party to sup­port­ing the NDP in the leg­is­la­ture pledges to in­crease the sup­ply of af­ford­able hous­ing and take ac­tion to deal with spec­u­la­tion and fraud driv­ing up prices.

There was noth­ing on the spec­u­la­tion tax in the govern­ment’s first bud­get, tabled last month.

But the Premier said the govern­ment re­mains com­mit­ted to mea­sures to deal with spec­u­la­tion that will be out­lined in the next bud­get, due in Fe­bru­ary.

“We’re look­ing at a whole range of is­sues on the de­mand side, on the hous­ing front and on the sup­ply side and dis­cour­ag­ing spec­u­la­tion, dis­cour­ag­ing money laun­der­ing is crit­i­cal to that,” Mr. Hor­gan told a news con­fer­ence in Sur­rey on Thurs­day. “We’ve been see­ing over the past num­ber of days exposure to the ex­tent of money laun­der­ing in some of our gam­ing in­sti­tu­tions, well known by the pre­vi­ous govern­ment; not ad­dressed.”

Mr. Hor­gan said he stuck by his prom­ise of a spec­u­la­tion tax.

But Mr. Quin­lan’s e-mail seeks to make the case that the city isn’t nec­es­sar­ily tar­get­ing off­shore buy­ers.

“The news re­lease also stated very clearly that the mo­tion is not tar­geted to for­eign buy­ers ver­sus ci­ti­zens but rather peo­ple who live and work in Van­cou­ver ver­sus those who are out­side, re­gard­less of cit­i­zen­ship,” he writes.

As well, the cor­re­spon­dence sug­gests that de­vel­op­ers should put some ef­fort into shap­ing the new pol­icy.

“Those de­vel­op­ers who do have an is­sue with the con­cept are wel­come to make the case around what kind of pol­icy the city should look at, how it can be struc­tured and what un­in­tended con­se­quences it could have that the city should avoid.”

JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

In an e-mail to the lo­cal de­vel­op­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion, Van­cou­ver Mayor Gre­gor Robert­son’s chief of staff Kevin Quin­lan sug­gests de­vel­op­ers should put some ef­fort into shap­ing the new pol­icy.

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