Late Wednesday night Vancouver City Council received a staff report on what will become a City-run “one-stop shop” for developers. There are crucial differences between COPE’s Housing Authority plan and Vision’s “Housing Agency.”
In April of this year, COPE released a 98-page report entitled, “Ending the Housing Crisis: International Best Practices for Creating a Vancouver Housing Authority,” which analyzed case studies from around the world and proposed key principles for a uniquely Vancouver approach to a municipal housing authority.
COPE’s Housing Authority fundamentally differs from the Vision housing agency in these ways:
1. Developer powers: COPE’s Housing Authority will build housing. Vision’s housing agency is not empowered to build housing.
2. Public profits: Any profits from COPE’s Housing Authority will go to the city, while Vision’s housing agency relies on private developers and allows them to keep profits.
3. Public ownership: COPE’s Housing Authority will own the housing it builds. Under Vision’s housing agency the city will not own the housing, rather the buildings will be privately owned.
4. Democratic governance: COPE’s Housing Authority will be democratically elected and represent tenants and community members, drawing on Toronto’s experience. Vision’s housing agency will be governed by a board of real estate industry experts.
5. Social housing: COPE’s Housing Authority will build social housing to end homelessness. Vision’s Housing Agency plan excludes social housing – it is all market housing.
6. Progressive funding sources: Part of COPE’s Housing Authority budget for operation and building will come from a dedicated tax on private developers and a luxury housing tax for houses valued at more than $1.5 million. Vision’s Housing Agency budget will come from general revenue and provides only for an executive board and expert consultants.
7. No corporate tax breaks: COPE’s Housing Authority will not be governed by real estate industry interests nor will it give tax breaks to real estate corporations, unlike Vision’s Housing Agency.
8. Lobbying: COPE’s Housing Authority will aggressively lobby and pressure other levels of government to support social housing. In Stockholm and New York City, tenants of the Housing Authority buildings work together to run the building and lobby for their interested. Vision’s housing agency does not plan to mobilize tenants or lobby government.