COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong calls for new city-owned housing

Photo of Meena Wong in front of Stamps Place by Sindhu Dharmarajah

Standing in front of Stamps Place on Campbell Avenue, COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong announced her plans to expand city-owned affordable housing if elected mayor of Vancouver.

In addition to her plans to ban renovictions and tax vacant properties, Wong’s housing authority platform involves building 800 units of city-owed housing a year.

Half of those units are intended to replace the 4,000 units of privately owned low-income hotel rooms in the Downtown Eastside.

According to COPE, BC housing recently told the Stamps Place tenants the buildings is going to be privatized by a non profit organization. Tenant Stella August worries that this news may not give residents enough notice to move if required.

“It would have been nice if BC housing informed the community first,” she said. “I’m sure they’re going to make a new project on the property here like building condominiums and pushing the poverty out.”

The City’s Vancouver Public Housing Corporation owns only five buildings with 397 units. BC housing owns 7,275 units in the city, while Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation owns 802, said Wong. Together, three per cent of housing units in the city are publicly owned.

Wong looks to mimic other cities like Whistler, Toronto and Hong Kong to increase publicly owned housing. She noted that Whistler built 1,900 units of affordable housing since 1997, half are rental and half are purchased, while Toronto Community housing owns 2,200 building that house 165,000 tenants. 

“It’s doable,” said Wong. “It’s about where the priority is for government.”

The city owned affordable housing built on its own land will be run by collecting rent, maintaining it and making it affordable and livable, she added. Wong also identified several funding sources for the housing with estimated annual costs:

  • Duty on Vacant Properties ($10 million)
  • Levies and contributions from private developers ($50 million)
  • Housing Authority profits ($50 million)
  • Luxury Housing Tax ($35 million).
    NOTE: will not affect homes valued below $1.5 million. A property valued at $2 million would be taxed only an extra 42 dollars per month. Means tested so that low-income homeowners exempted.
  • Property Endowment Fund revenues ($10 million)
  • Lobbying / other sources ($25 million)

The people who are lobbying are registered with the city for transparency and accountability, said Wong. COPE’s platform expects to lobby and pressure other levels of government to support social housing.

Developers under Vision Vancouver were making millions in profit, she added, so under the new plan they can afford to contribute $4,000 or even $100,000. Real estate industry interests will not govern COPE’s housing nor will it give tax breaks to real estate corporations, the party members asserted.

“We just want to make sure that the people who want to do business here, do their duty and contribute to building this city for everybody and not just for their own profit,” said Wong. “If you believe that developers will be able to provide better affordable housing than the city government then choose Vision or NPA.”

The Non-Partisan Association’s government says it will work to increase the supply of family and seniors’ housing by revitalizing the CityPlan, a neighbourhood-based, citywide zoning plan, according to its platform.

Meanwhile Vision’s housing platform includes building 4,000 new rental units over four years, investing in interim housing (like the City purchasing the Ramada Hotel on East Hastings) to provide housing for low-income residents who are waiting for permanent homes, and identifying more city-owned sites to build new social housing in partnership with BC Housing.

“If you look at their platform they don’t have any money – not a single penny- to put into city-owned housing,” said COPE’s Tristan Markle following Vision’s park board announcement. “They have free swimming lessons and stuff like that.”

Vision released its full election platform this morning including the park board platform. According to the plan, Vision will offer the first swimming course free to any child under the age of 14 in the city, renew the Burrard Civic Marina, upgrade more sports fields, expand green space and community gardens and add ping pong tables at parks.

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