The District of North Vancouver is either taking a step forward on housing affordability or sending 11 volunteers on a fool’s errand, depending on which councillor you believe.
Council voted 4-2 to form an 11-member rental, social, and affordable housing task force Monday evening, following a motion put forward by Coun. Lisa Muri.
But while Muri emphasized the need for a task force to recommend innovative housing solutions, Coun. Mathew Bond focused on what he characterized as thousands of fruitless hours of council, staff and volunteer time already devoted to the topic. “I feel like we might be giving (the task force) the impossible task of trying to find a unicorn or a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow,” he said.
Land and money are the key ingredients in creating social and affordable housing, Bond said. “We’re flush with solutions . . . what we’re lacking right now with council, is the political will.”
Council previously voted against a below-market project at Delbrook and scuttled a 100-unit below market development at Burr Place.
The task force can offer insight on topics ranging from the district’s official community plan to its tenant relocation policy to the prospect of rental-only zoning, Muri responded. “There’s a lot of issues that are going to arise. It may or may not impact discussions as we move forward. That’s for us to determine.”
Council may differ with the committee’s recommendations, Coun. Jordan Back advised, suggesting a broader scope is necessary. “We may indeed be creating yet another silo by working in isolation from our municipal neighbours.”
Back contrasted the task force with the City of North Vancouver’s North Shore Housing Solutions Lab, which is meant to include all three North Shore governments, the province and federal government, First Nations, non-profits and major employers.
The task force should help council make long-term decisions, said Coun. Jim Hanson, adding that council won’t be bound by the task force’s findings. “There is no delegated authority so we’re not giving away any decision-making power,” he said.
Coun. Megan Curren concurred, suggesting the task force would help council “review and refine” housing policies. “I think most people would agree that since the OCP’s inception, we haven’t delivered – in regards specifically to the town centres – on diverse and inclusive communities.”
The task force is set to consist of one person in social housing, a senior, one renter, a student, one representative for people with disabilities, an owner of a unit in an older strata, two representatives from the not-for-profit housing sector, one representative from B.C. Housing, someone from the development/construction sector with experience in rental, social and affordable housing, and one representative from the community at large. Positions are unpaid.
Council also supported a new policy that would give non-profit groups first crack at operating out of district-owned rental properties.The partnerships, while not necessarily permanent, are a good use of district resources, according to Hanson, who put forward the motion. The district is currently renting out 14 single-family homes.
“We don’t want to displace anybody,” Muri said. “But when they come available, it’s certainly something to consider.”