1. Housing

COPE’s Housing Authority – 10 Principles

PREAMBLE

Build housing and don’t rely on private developers: The Housing Authority will have developer powers to construct housing, including social housing, public rental housing, as well as regular market housing to generate surplus revenues, and achieve significant market share to break the existing monopoly power that private developers wield.
Prioritize social housing for those most in need: Replace substandard privately-owned hotels, and prioritize social housing units for Indigenous People, migrants, women, trans people, seniors, youth, people with mental health and physical disabilities including HIV/AIDs, and vulnerable low-income people who are disproportionately at risk of homelessness and hidden homelessness.
Clear and Consistent Definitions of affordable and social housing: The Housing Authority should operate under clear and consistent definitions of affordable, market, and social housing. Affordable housing should be defined as 30% of household income and is minimal for people whose household income does not provide sufficient income for other living expenses and should be targeted to lower-income households.
High quality housing: Ensure high quality of design, maintenance, and front-line service. In line with the New York model, public housing should be constructed and maintained at levels comparable to, or better than, the private market. Follow Vienna’s practice of high environmental design.
Monitor entire housing supply: The Housing Authority should administer a landowner and landlord registry to keep inventory on all types of housing in the city and take measures to protect the city’s affordable housing stock.
Housing as Public Good: Public housing provision should be accessible to a large cross-section of the population. This will increase public buy-in and reduce stigmatization, as in Hong Kong, Singapore, Stockholm, and Vienna.
Democratic governance: Ensure resident participation in Housing Authority decision-making, independent from real estate interests. Enable a tenant union inspired by the Swedish Union of Tenants.
Actively lobby higher levels of government: Organize locally and nationally to aggressively lobby all levels of government to fund social and affordable housing. Lobbying efforts can enhanced by using new revenue sources to leverage matching funds, and supported by tenant boards or unions.
Public ownership of land: Control of city land-banks should be centralized under the Housing Authority. This is also an opportunity for the Housing Authority to be at the forefront of building relations of solidarity and urban land sovereignty with Indigenous people, communities and Nations.
Funding Mechanisms: We have identified a series of potential funding mechanisms, including building new revenue-generating properties, as well as clear direction of development contributions, land-lease revenues and other commercial taxes, and progressive property taxes into producing city-owned public housing assets.

1.1 On its first day in office, COPE will declare a “state of emergency” to solve the affordable housing crisis. COPE will maximize existing powers and proactively pursue new powers, resources, and alliances.

1.2 COPE will work to end the influence of corporations at City Hall and work to ban corporate donations.

1.3 COPE will dramatically expand the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA) so that it will:

1.3.1 Follow the ten recommendations made in the 98 page report published in April 2014 titled Ending the Housing Crisis: International best-practices for creating a Vancouver Housing Authority.

1.3.2 Have developer powers to construct housing, including low-end and regular market housing, to generate surplus revenues and to achieve significant market share to undercut monopoly developer profits.

1.3.3 Respond to the strong private market by directing CACs and DCLs toward social and affordable housing, increase DCLs and CACs rates, and eliminate loopholes that avoid the paying of them.

1.3.4 COPE will seek an amendment to the Vancouver Charter to implement a progressive “Mansion Tax”, with increments and %’s to be set by City Council, on only the additional value of homes worth more than $5 million. A surtax of 1% on the value over $5M, and 2% on the value over $10, would generate over $200M annually. All revenues will be directed toward ending homelessness, building social and co-op housing, and working with Indigenous host nations to create land trusts, restore land to them, and end their housing crisis.

1.3.5 COPE will transfer roughly $1 Billion, or roughly 20%, of the Vancouver Property Endowment Fund’s assets – including land – to the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency to serve as seed capital and collateral for loans for Housing Agency projects.

1.3.6 Use increased lobbying power and revenue to leverage additional matching funds from higher levels of government.

1.3.7 Seek ongoing capital investment through partnership(s) with the British Columbia Municipal and other Pension Plans, including using the City’s Pension Plan capital reserves, and borrow through the BC Municipal Financial Authority, BC Housing, Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and any other credit union or financial institution.

1.3.8 COPE will end homelessness in Vancouver through building 2,181 modular homes, one for each homeless person counted in Vancouver in 2018, within 6 months of winning council majority at a cost of $75,000 per unit, $164 million – less than one year of Mansion Tax revenues.

1.3.9 Build at least 4,500 units of low-rent (subsidized and contingent on income), high-quality public and cooperative housing for each of the next 4 years to meet the need of 18,000 Vancouver households currently spending over 50% of their income on rent.

1.4 Renovate or replace all 3,500 Single Room Occupancy Hotel rooms with self-contained homes, including a kitchen and a bathroom, over the next 4 years. SROs should be declared a public utility, followed by compulsory purchase.

1.5 COPE will do everything in its power to cause there to be effectively an immediate moratorium on condo development and stop gentrification and displacement.

1.6 COPE will approve at least twice as much floor area of new rental housing construction in its first term of office as City Council approved between 2008 and 2018, in accordance with NSV Principles 4 and 5, and maintaining existing Cityplan and relevant zoning, and provided that if existing low income housing is demolished it must be replaced by low income housing in the same neighbourhood.

1.7 COPE will increase rental-housing construction enough to ensure that the residential rental vacancy rate is at least 2% by 2022, and the median real rent paid by tenant households is lower in 2022 than in 2018.

1.8 COPE will eliminate the incentive for landlords to evict tenants by requiring, as a condition of issuing building permits, that landlords maintain rents at existing levels after work is completed.

1.8.1 COPE will ensure that, as a condition of issuing a building permit or development permit involving rental units, landlords prove they have found suitable interim accommodation at the same rent for all tenants who will be displaced due to renovations; and, that there is a signed contract that gives tenants the right to move back into their unit, or a new replacement unit, at the same rents they were previously paying, once renovations are complete.

1.9 COPE will seek to define Single Room Occupancy Hotel conversion to include those units where rents are raised above welfare- and pension-level shelter rates, and will increase SRO-conversion fees to those recommended by the Carnegie Community Action Project, and apply them to vacant SRO units.

1.10 COPE will apply strict rent controls to all new large housing developments, using the City’s zoning and housing agreement powers.

1.11 COPE will develop a system of rent control and lobby the Provincial Government to implement a Municipal Rent Control program to bring rents down across the City.

1.12 COPE will establish an elected Rent Control Board, with tenant representation and independence from the real estate industry.

1.13 COPE will work with other municipalities to advocate that the provincial government tie rent increases to the rental unit, not to the tenancy, and implement a province-wide rent-freeze.

1.14 COPE councillors will move that City Council officially ask and proactively lobby the provincial government to immediately set a 0% rent increase in the City of Vancouver over the next four years, and to reassess the rental situation at that time.
1.15 COPE will redefine “social housing” to mean housing that will be affordable to people on low wage-incomes, welfare, disability and old age pension incomes.

1.16 COPE will work with the provincial government to tie the welfare disability shelter rates to actual housing costs in Vancouver and other municipalities.

1.16 COPE will build a public campaign to pressure the province to change the Residential Tenancy Act to meet the requests of Pets OK BC and children.

1.17 COPE will enact a moratorium on the loss of existing low-income housing units across the city by strengthening and expanding the City’s Rate of Change / Tenant Relocation and Protection bylaws.

1.18 COPE will advocate that all funds collected from within the City of Vancouver by the Province of BC under the ‘Foreign Buyer Tax’, the Speculation Tax, and Property Transfer Tax, be returned to the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA). VAHA will allocate these funds for the purchase of lands to be zoned for multiple residential housing and the construction of public and cooperative and (non-market) rental housing, of which a minimum of 50% will be for subsidized rental, determined annually to meet deficiencies in affordability for average and lower income residents.

1.19 COPE will selectively and rapidly up-zone VAHA controlled lots it purchases or receives across all neighbourhoods in the city, thus enabling reasonable densification (as described above).

1.20 COPE will utilize the supply of affordable, public, non-market housing to counter displacement and support the growth of vibrant neighbourhoods.

1.21 COPE will create a Landowner and Landlord Registry database that will:

1.21.1 Register and License Landowners and Landlords;

1.21.2 List all rental units, rents, and rent increases;

1.21.3 Track all health, safety, maintenance, and tenancy disputes;

1.21.4 Be funded, in full or part, by Registration and Licensing fees;

1.21.5 Create incentives for property owners to register and rent-out suites and rooms legally;

1.21.6 Monitor and apply penalties for vacant or underutilized properties.

1.22 COPE will enforce and strengthen municipal housing maintenance standards. This includes enforcing existing minimum fines and powers to seek injunctions for neglect and disinvestment. It also includes proactive investigations of maintenance, up to and including seizing rental properties that fall behind on bylaw fine payments.

1.23 COPE will support and fund citywide Tenant Unions.

1.24 COPE will make the enforcement of provincial and federal squatting laws the lowest policing priority, and ensure that all municipal discriminatory squatting bylaws, including the existing Political Structures By-law, be abandoned. COPE will establish health and safety supports to squatters in abandoned government-owned buildings and properties.

1.25 COPE will create a Rental Housing Ombudsperson.

1.26 That COPE endorse the use of co-ops as a means of community building and to provide truly affordable housing.

1.27 COPE stands for democratic community-oriented city development that ensures livability affordability and inclusion through a two-pronged approach:

A CITY-WIDE PLAN

binding on every neighbourhood, that establishes for each neighbourhood a minimum of the following:

Rental and social or subsidized or below-market housing units (at a cost of less than 1/3 of net income);

Park land, recreation and community centres, childcare facilities, schools, seniors centres, and libraries;

Public services such as health care and social support;

Locally-owned shops that are accessible to the needs of the community.

NEIGHBOURHOOD CONTROL

Over the specifics (form and location of housing, amenities, and public services) of the implementation of the City Wide Plan; and

Over any other rezoning proposal, through the following process:

A) Implementing the City-Wide Plan in the neighbourhood by:

Forming a Co-Design Committee whose purpose would be to engage in a process of Co-Design from the grassroots up. This committee should be composed of neighbourhood residents and strive to represent the diversity of both the neighbourhood and Vancouver’s population, by including, but not being limited to: renters, social and coop housing tenants, homeless people, and single-family-home owners; students, young people and seniors; the working poor and people on government-assisted income (e.g. welfare, disability); racialized people, and the LGBTQ+ community; host First Nations whose traditional land lies within the neighbourhood, and other urban Indigenous people and organizations; local artists, non-profits, and business owners.

B) Requiring the Co-Design process to include:

Funding from the City in order to facilitate the Co-Design process in each neighbourhood;

well-advertised regular meetings where City staff only attend to provide logistics, technical support, and background material, when invited to do so;

forums where larger audiences can discuss proposals and provide feedback to the Co-Design Committee;

publicizing the proposals of the Co-Design Committee and holding panel discussions to give all neighbourhood residents an opportunity to express their opinions and preferences;

Ideally the Co-Design Committee will arrive at their final proposals by consensus, but if not possible, a majority vote will prevail; and

Neighbourhood residents will vote on the final proposals from the Co-Design Committee by ranking them according to preference.

C) Having neighbourhoods approve or reject City rezoning proposals or other development-related proposals that go beyond the scope of, or are not consistent with, the agreed-upon plan for that neighbourhood by:

augmenting the current open houses run by City planners with well publicized panel discussions at the neighbourhood level, with speakers in favour and against City and developer proposals and where residents and other stakeholders are able to express their opinions; and

conducting a vote at the neighbourhood level so that neighbourhood residents approve or reject City and developer proposals.