Ian's Housing-Friendly YVR Voter Guide
On October 20th Vancouver voters have to pick a Mayor and 10 council members. It takes a lot to go through it all and I've had a few friends ask for some insight so I made this guide to influence those less obsessive than I am.
A lot of this was made with the help from Chris Porter's Housing Primer, the official voting guide, a crap load of financial disclosure forms, a smattering of candidate pages and Twitter feeds, and my own biases.
This is a one issue election: Affordable Housing
I'm a one-issue voter for this race. I know the opiod epidemic and transit are issues for some people, but housing is a massive issue affecting everyone in Vancouver and there are levers within Municipal purview that can improve afforablity (especially on the supply side). Plus, affordable housing bleeds into those other issues.
As for me, I rent in Yaletown and my houshold is DINK'D (Double Income, No Kids, one Dog). I work at a local tech startup so my financial interests are in creating affordable housing for talent reasons. The housing crisis is so bad that I'm more/less disregarding any other issues I care about because they're all dwarfed by housing. For example, I buy the arguments for more transit, but I've never lost friends to other cities because of it like I have housing.
There are 21 Candidates running for Mayor of Vancouver. However, once you take out the Nazi (yes, there is one), the convicted murder (yes, there is one), the naked one (yes, there is one), the other crackpots, and the unlikelies you're left with 4 frontrunners. I won't suggest more than the top 4 because 3/4 are pretty good in regards to housing and I don't think the Mayor's race is the most interesting one. Whomever wins won't have a majority on council so that's far more interesting.
Far and away the front-runner, Stewart was a NDP MP for Burnaby. Stewart's housing plan seems to want to build a mix of market and non-market housing while keeping demand restrictions in place.
The other progressive choice along with Stewart and has similar housing policies except with a little more emphasis on co-op housing and co-housing.
Splitered from the NPA to create a more pro-density party "YES Vancouver". Probably the one willing to be the most bold in terms of supply side in terms of market housing.
Dude behind the "5 Kids 1 Condo" blog, he's definitely the front-runner amoung the pro-housing-density independents.
Why he has a mormon-levels of offspring in a city I do not know, but I'm on board with his plans to increase housing supply as whatever pinch I feel, he's going to feel worse.
Another pro-density independent but with a more millenial bent.
Cook works in tech and is thus probably the closest to me in a demographic sense and seems great on both supply and demand side of housing.
A United Church minister and climate activist, Christine is part of OneCity. OneCity is a little more left of how I would normally vote; but their pro-density housing policies are what are going to get me on board.
YES Vancouver a the new party led by Hector Bremner with a pro-density bent. Ostler appears to be a frontrunner from this pro-density party. Whether you support Hector or not, pro-density councilors will hopefully help increase supply. That said, YES seems to want to remove some of the demand side efforts like the empty homes tax, so 3 of them is probably enough.
Another from YES Vancouver, I kinda liked her because she's a small business owner in the travel industry.
Rounding out my YES Vancouver picks is Jaspreet, who runs a local pharmacy.
I'm taking a bit of a flyer on this one. McDowell is another pro-housing independent with an interesting background as a diplomat. He's gotten enough endorsements to make him a credible independent.
I've done a few eyerolls over things Yan has done or said on Twitter, but none of those really matter. He's an up-and-comer in municipal politics and I'm on board with the OneCity housing platform.
Rezel is with ProVancouver and has been calling out a lot of BS that seems to be happening in regards to AirBNB. ProVancouver is mostly focused on demand-side restrictions. They came out eyebrow-raisingly hard against the city-wide duplex
up-zoning. I get that the "type" of housing we build matters, but we have to remember our goal is affordable housing, not punishing whomever helped get us into this mess.
(side note: in what is probably the nerdiest thing ever done on the official voter guide, Rezel linked his GitHub account)
Less antagonizing party-mate of Rezel with an extremely trustworthy beard.
Rounds out the "limit-demand" wing of my picks.
Lean No - Vision
Politicians and diapers occasionally need to be changed for the exact same reason
I'm actually a fan of Vision's last-minute broad densification with duplexes. It increased density a minimal amount without the need for a neightbourhood-by-neighbourhood fight. However, it was too little, too late.
Vision has been in power for 10 years and while they have a decent platform in regards to housing, heads need to roll because of the current state of affordability. Progressive voters have plenty of other options.
Lean No - NPA
Yes, these are your Grandfather's NIMBY's
Given that the pro-development wing of the NPA splintered into YES Vancouver, there isn't much left in here that will do anything bold for housing.
The have something that looks like a housing plan on their site, but the NPA has committed to a lot more consultation plans with communities. Any housing plan that doesn't piss off existing homeowever isn't going to move the needle on affordability.
Funny thing I saw looking at the disclosure forms was that Rebecca Bligh put her salary number in "income sources" when it only asked for her job role. Good to know she's pulling in a solid $125k.
Hard No - COPE
Picking the wrong battles
Jean Swanson ran in last year's by-election and did pretty well. However, she got pretty obsessive about the fact that Lululemon Chip Wilson lived in a mansion and staged an event outside it to pitch her mansion tax. With all the dirty money flowing through the city from offshore, picking on someone who created a company and hundreds of local jobs seemed to be attacking the wrong target.
COPE's platform is also down-right hostile to market housing: "The City can buy the land and build the homes we need by properly taxing the rich and property speculators." This will lead to affordable housing the way ICBC has led to affordable car insurance in BC :-P.
COPE is also in favour of a rent freeze. I get the short-term appeal of this, but this is bad for 2 reasons. Firstly, the municipality doesn't have authority to do this (I hate when politicians campaign outside their lane), and secondly any economist will tell you that this is a really bad idea that will make things worse in the long run.
Hard No - Greens
NIMBY's Hiding Behind the Environment
Current Green City Councilor Carr voted against housing more than any other councilor. Enough Said.
Hard No - Coalition Vancouver
If the comment section of your local newspaper formed a political party
This is the party of status-quo on housing. Their primary issue seems to be a reduction in property taxes. That is really the opposite of the problem we have right now given how many homes are being used primarily for investment and property taxes are effectively an investment's carrying cost.
Looking at financial disclosure forms, Li Morning has so many numbered companies listed you'd think he was named in the Panama Papers.
Hard No - Vancouver 1st
Libertarians who can't fill out paperwork properly
is that all of their candidates didn't list
in their disclosure forms. Seriously, check them out. They all list no assets, no liabilities, and no incomes. That's true of a handful of candidates in general, but this is the only group that seems to have a party-wide commitment to hiding
I also don't like their idea of lower property taxes for seniors. That's just a tax cut benefitting those who've made the biggest windfall gains out housing in a cynical vote-buying bid.