District of North Van candidates push housing promises

Development and demovictions dominated the discussion at a packed District of North Vancouver all-candidates meeting Tuesday night.

The Lynn Valley Community Association hosted 19 would-be mayors and councillors at the Lynn Valley Recreation Centre.

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Mayoral candidate Mike Little said district council needs to be more selective with which developments it approves.

“We’re building too much, too fast. We need to slow down,” he said. “And we need to make sure the housing that we’re building is actually the housing that we need. We’re tearing down a lot of low-cost – due to age – affordable units and we’re replacing them with studio and one-bedroom units that are absolutely not affordable.”

Mayoral challenger Dennis Maskell also targeted people’s dissatisfaction with the OCP.

“Many times I’ve seen politicians past and present run to the OCP as if it was some kind of backstop. We don’t even have to have an OCP and when we have one that is not working, council can, at a whim, change the direction for the people,” he said.

Under provincial law, municipalities must have an official community plan.

Mayoral candidate Glen Webb, however, said he supports proceeding with the current OCP because, under the status quo, people like his daughter will never be able to afford a home here.

“The reason I like that plan is because it calls for the development of dense compact communities served by transit that are walkable and connected by bike paths. That is the future. The car is not out future. It’s going to be rapid transit. It’s going to be working where we live on the North Shore,” he said.

Webb also urged everyone to vote yes on the ballot plebiscite directing council to spend $150 million to create affordable housing.

Incumbent Lisa Muri said the OCP is a good document but that the district has allowed the market to drive too much growth in too short a time.

“In order to stop the ebb of employees and residents leaving our community, the municipality will need to look at our own land to fill the affordability void. The value of land is the single (biggest) impediment to creating affordable and employee housing,” she said.

Betty Forbes said she would like to see larger developments phased in over longer periods of time to prevent massive disruption for neighbourhoods. And Forbes called for the official community plan to go through a review in 2019.

Much of the night was spent on the issue of demovictions. Dozens of nearby Emery Village residents who will soon be evicted for redevelopment, were in attendance.

Mayoral challenger Erez Barzilay signalled he wouldn’t approve any rezonings that result in demovictions unless all residents had affordable replacement housing.

“Never, ever again. This is unacceptable. I think, personally, it’s illegal. I think it’s totally deplorable,” he said.

Council incumbent Robin Hicks took some heat for his vote in favour of the Emery rezoning. Hicks said it was a mistake for the 2011-2014 council (of which he was a member) to pass the official community plan without taking into account the people who would be displaced by the new development the OCP would usher in. And that if re-elected, Hicks said he would use the newly created power to establish rental-only zoning to protect other purpose-built rental buildings from redevelopment.

Megan Curren said she recently toured temporary modular housing in Vancouver and said the district should be pursuing the same thing.

“That is a viable option that we need to explore. It was put up in three months. We are still working on solutions and we’re not going to stop until we have them,” she said.

After telling the residents of Emery Village he loved them, Peter Teevan said he would vote to withhold any future demolition permits until all of the demovictees had been successfully rehoused though he didn’t specify how that could be done.

ZoAnn Morten said she would have liked to have seen council push the developer to phase construction of the new condo complex to allow demovictees to transition into the new buildings are they come online.

“You could watch your new home being built rather than your home being bulldozed,” she said.

Barry Forward added the district’s rental and affordable housing strategy, which calls for 1,000 units of housing for low- and moderate-income earners, should become embedded in the OCP, rather than a policy add-on.

When it comes to providing more affordable housing, incumbent Jim Hanson said he has already brought forward motions to council to offer district land for affordable housing and to incentivize more secondary suites in single-family homes.

Jordan Back said the district should adopt the same 10-10-10 policy used by the City of North Vancouver – 10 per cent of all new units should be rented out 10 per cent below market rates for a period of 10 years.

Greg Robins said he would push the next council to seek funding through the federal government’s $40-billion national housing strategy and the province’s new community housing fund to build affordable housing. But he added finding a way to tax empty homes and restricting foreign speculation would “put a lid on the boiling prices.”

Mitchell Baker said council needs to define affordability based on an individual’s income, not regional averages, and to accommodate more affordable housing, Baker said he would prefer sacrificing some of the district’s single-family home atmosphere rather than wait on upper levels of government for subsidies.

Mark Elliott challenged the notion that the district was experiencing rapid growth, citing census data that found the municipality had only grown by 1.8 percent between 2011 and 2016.

“Affordable housing is hopefully one of the pieces of the puzzle that will lead to less congestion,” he said, adding he would support the use of district land, community amenity contributions from developers and density bonusing to achieve that.

Phil Dupasquier said affordable housing should be regarded like a community amenity similar to like rec centres and parks and that senior levels of government, non-profits and developers would all be required. “We’re better off if we have it.”

In addition to seeking federal and provincial support, Linda Findlay said she would aggressively negotiate with and support developers who offer what the district is looking for when it comes to market and non-market units. Findlay said she would like to build on and fast-track the recommendations of the Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project.

“Having the three North Shore communities working as one will give us a louder, stronger voice when brokering funding for transit and roadway infrastructure,” she said.

When it came to housing, John Harvey expressed frustration and noted that no one would turn down $2 million for their home.

“Housing? Has anybody go an answer on housing? I haven’t,” he said.

Although it was an all-candidates meeting, some candidates opted out. Mayoral challenger and Building Bridges slate leader Ash Amlani announced before the meeting that she and her party’s candidates Mathew Bond, Carleen Thomas, and Sameer Parekh would greet people at the door but not attend the meeting. The short time limits on responses to questions “do not allow for a meaningful exploration of concerns or solutions,” Amlani said in a release.

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