For Immediate Release October 14th, 2014 Today the NPA announced its housing platform, which included a watered-down version of Meena Wong’s plan to tax vacant properties. COPE announced its plan over a month ago. Since then the Green party and
“Only COPE can be trusted to build a Vancouver everyone can afford,” says Meena Wong
For immediate release
Wednesday October 8th, 2014
In 2008 Gregor Robertson promised to end homelessness. After six years of corporate tax breaks, luxury condo development, and renovictions, homelessness is at its highest level in recorded history. Today, while Vision is in court seeking to evict hundreds homeless people from Oppenheimer park, they are announcing that they want to make Vancouver affordable.
- Vision says it has adopted COPE’s idea for an Affordable Housing Authority. While COPE’s plan means the city will build and own affordable housing, under Vision’s plan the city won’t build or own a single unit of housing. According to Councillor Geoff Meggs it will be a “one-stop-shop” for developers. “This is all style and no substance, not the kind of leadership we need to solve the housing crisis,” said COPE’s Mayoral candidate Meena Wong.
- Vision says they have built new rental housing by giving tax-breaks to developers through the STIR and Rental 100 program. But the rents in these apartments are not affordable. “I don’t call $1,800/month for a one-bedroom suite affordable,” said Meena Wong.
- Vision says that they’re requiring that a portion of new developments to be for families. But every year 2% of children leave Vancouver public schools because they can’t afford to the cost of living. “New families can no longer imagine themselves building a life in this city. We need housing that families can afford,” said Meena Wong.
- Vision says that have offered a free swimming course. But Vision has increased community centre fees across the board. “Only COPE can be trusted to reduce community centre fees for everyone,” said Wong.
“Vision accepted over $1 million from the real estate industry last election, and now you see the results,” said Meena Wong. “Only COPE can be trusted to build a Vancouver everyone can afford. We don’t accept funding from property developers.”
So far this campaign, COPE has proposed concrete ideas that will make life more affordable immediately.
- Placing a duty on vacant properties to help fund our Housing Authority’s affordable and social housing.
- A ban on renovictions to stop evictions for cosmetic renovations and to ensure a right-of return for tenants at previous rents.
- Bringing in a Living Wage for all city employees and a $15/month minimum wage starting with large chain stores and hotels.
- Reducing the cost of a 3-zone bus pass from $170/month to $30/month for all Vancouver residents who want it.
Vision Vancouver has opposed all these plans. We can’t afford four more years of Vision. It’s time for bold ideas to reduce the cost-of-living and increase incomes.
“How can we take guidance from a Task Force that hasn’t genuinely included people who have experienced mental health issues?”
–Meena Wong, September 17th, 2014
Long-time mental health advocate and COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong is speaking out against the final recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force on Mental Health and Addictions. “The mental health task force has 64 members, almost all of them are politicians, CEOs, doctors and people with money and power,” said Wong. “Only three of the 64 are affected community members. I have heard loud and clear that the community is frustrated by lack of action on affordable housing and better incomes.”
“Why have the City’s task forces consistently failed to include the voices of the people who are most affected?” asked Wong. “Last year the housing task force was all developers without a single renter in a city of 50% renters.” Meena and the COPE team are opposing the recommendations of the Mayors Task Force on Mental Health and Addictions for the following six reasons:
– Task Force did not genuinely include people who have experienced mental health issues and the mental health system from below.
– The report ignores the fact that mental health services are currently facing serious cuts across the city.
– Recommendations fail to address the housing crisis. Homelessness and inadequate housing conditions are the primary cause of deteriorating mental health.
– Task force communications frames people with mental health illness as dangerous, obscures the fact that people with mental health illness are more likely to be the victims of violence.
– The final task force report recommends increased involvement of police in providing mental health support through ACT teams and other VPD assertive care enforcement. There are already 8 mental health apprehensions in Vancouver per day under the Mayor’s police-led approach to mental health. These traumatic arrests are worsening the mental health crisis. What we need instead are low-barrier employment opportunities, healthy living conditions, and more social supports for marginalized people.
– Task Force recommendations will result in increased institutionalization of people with mental health issues. Mental health care institutions will worsen long-term mental health instability if they are not complemented with housing, social supports, decent incomes, and community.
– Doesn’t do enough to address the legacy of colonialism and residential schools, nor does it address the ongoing role of displacement for urban aboriginal communities.
“The minimum wage should be a living wage” says mayoral candidate Meena Wong
The Coalition of Progressive Electors is pleased to support Tom Mulcair and the NDP’s call for a $15/hour minimum wage for federal employees.
In the meantime, COPE is pressing for even stronger measures to combat income inequality in the city of Vancouver. Once elected, COPE Councillors will seek an amendment to the Vancouver Charter to confer powers upon the City that will allow it to set a municipal minimum wage. The initial wage will be set at $15/hr with the aim of closing the gap between a minimum and a living wage (that is currently closer to $20/hr).
“COPE believes that no one should live right at the poverty line,” said Meena Wong, COPE’s candidate for mayor. “The current minimum wage in BC is $10.25 but the cost of living in Vancouver is almost double that, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.”
COPE looks south to Seattle for an example of a successful push for a municipal $15/hour minimum wage. Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Councillor, was elected on a platform that included a $15/hour minimum wage and mobilized a diverse cross-section of Seattle’s working people to have it enacted this summer.
“Kshama Sawant shows us the way to $15/hour in Seattle,” said Meena Wong. “By taking a stand with low-wage workers, she shifted the whole debate across the continent. Now almost everyone is recognizing that when everyone gets a living wage, people can live in dignity and support the local economy.”
On Saturday September 27th at 7pm at the Maritime Labour Centre, Kshama Sawant will speak about the fight for $15/hour on behalf of COPE.
“We will monitor vacancy rates as well as rent increases across the city,” says Meena Wong
Over the past week, there has been significant interest in COPE’s proposal to monitor Vancouver’s housing supply, including vacant or under-utilized properties.
“I am happy to have this discussion about vacant properties, because the housing crisis in Vancouver has only worsened over the past six years,” said Meena Wong, COPE’s Mayoral candidate. “We need to have a vigorous public debate about solutions.”
COPE would like to take this opportunity to be very clear about what we are, and are not, proposing.
A central part of COPE’s election platform, which has been developed democratically by our membership in consultation with grassroots organizations, is our Housing Authority plan. COPE’s Housing Authority will focus on new affordable and social housing construction, but it will also include an office to monitor the city’s existing housing infrastructure through a new Landowner and Landlord Registry.
Here’s what the registry will do:
Register and License Landowners and Landlords: All residential properties will be registered to take a full inventory of the city’s housing stock. Licensing and registration fees for rental properties will fund administration of the the registry itself, at no cost to the public.
Monitor vacancy rates: The registry will track vacancy rates. Property owners will report usage information to the city, and the city will also use surveys, inspections, and other methods.
In some sectors of the housing market, such as purpose-built rental, vacancy rates are very low. COPE’s Housing Authority will focus on housing construction to meet the need in this area.
In other sectors, such high-end downtown condominiums, vacancy rates can be much higher. The city will create incentives for property owners to register and rent-out these suites and rooms legally at affordable rates. The registry will also monitor and apply penalties for vacant or underutilized properties.
Monitor rent increases: The registry will include an up-to-date inventory of all rental units, rents and rent increases.
Stop renovictions: The registry will track renovations. By placing tenancy protection conditions on renovations permits, the city can stop the practice of using renovations as a means to evict tenants and circumvent the RTA rent increase regulations.
Track all health, safety, maintenance, and tenancy disputes: The registry will centralize data on housing safety and quality so that the city can finally enforce its standards of maintenance bylaws. The city’s current database is woefully inadequate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does COPE want to monitor Vancouver’s housing supply?
The first reason for monitoring the housing supply is to understand the affordability crisis. The city will monitor rents and rent increases on all rental housing. This gives the city the knowledge it needs to improve rent control and stop renovictions. The second reason is to better monitor health and safety standards. Thirdly the registry will be used to incentivize the renting-out of under-utilized properties at affordable rates.
How will COPE determine what a “vacant property” is?
“Vacant” will mean a unit of housing that is consistently unoccupied for 12 months of the year by the owner and not rented out. This definition is not meant primarily to capture vacation homes, but rather homes treated as investment vehicles and left empty.
Under COPE’s plan, will vacant properties pay an extra tax?
Yes. The registry system will allow for both carrots and sticks. There will be incentives for owners to rent out vacant homes. And if owners still choose to leave them empty they can afford to pay a tax that will contribute to our affordable housing fund.
Will this registry tax foreign owners exclusively?
No. It does not matter whether the owner’s primary residence is in Dunbar, Toronto, Seattle, or overseas. If a property is vacant, there will be a vacancy levy.
Will the registry cost the residents of Vancouver to create?
No. Administration of the registry will not be a cost to the public, because it will be funded by landlord registration fees, based on the New York model.
Are vacant or under-utilized properties the main cause of high housing prices?
No. The biggest problem in Vancouver is that we have a game of monopoly where new housing supply is closely controlled by big property developers and their friends at city hall. Vision and NPA each took over $1 million from property developers last election. It is no wonder that luxury development trumps real affordable housing every time. COPE rejects developer money and will ban developer donations to all municipal parties.