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What can ordinary people do?
Somebody on /r/vancouver asked what ordinary people can do to help with the cost-of-living problem:
I'm not claiming to be a policy expert here and I don't have the answers, but I'm simply just curious: What can we, as ordinary citizens, do to address these issues that seem to only be getting worse?
I wrote in response:
To me the key challenge in Vancouver is that we need more housing, especially rental housing. Housing in Vancouver is scarce and therefore expensive. The problem is that we're adding jobs faster than we're adding housing, so it's like musical chairs - rents keep rising and people keep getting pushed out, or worse, into poverty and homelessness. For a more authoritative discussion, see the report from the recent expert panel on housing affordability in BC, the MacPhail Report.
Why are we slow to add more housing? It goes back to the 1970s: soaring home values (due to inflation) made homeowners much more aware of the value of their homes, and much more wary of anything that could result in lower property values. So whenever council has to make a decision on a proposal for new housing, there's always a lot of loud opposition, which makes council hesitate. Surprisingly, though, polls show that a solid majority of public opinion supports building more housing.
So what can we do about it? I'd suggest two things:
(1) Whenever your local city council is making a decision on whether to add more housing or not, submit a brief message of support. Council gets lots of messages opposing new housing, so it's important to counterbalance that.
In December we had the Streamlining Rental Plan decision, making six-storey rental buildings legal near local shopping areas.
Coming up next Tuesday, item B3 on the agenda is a "gentle density" proposal from Kennedy Stewart to allow small-plexes of up to six units in low-density residential areas (Making Home), along the lines of this report. He's trying to get council to approve asking staff for a detailed plan. If you'd like to submit a message in support (subject: "Making Home"), it takes literally 60 seconds.
At some point next year the Broadway Plan (high-rises in a rapid transit corridor) will come back to council for approval - that's going to be a big one, with lots of opposition.
And there's always individual projects that need to get ratified by council.
(2) Get involved in municipal politics. We've got municipal elections coming up in October 2022. In the city of Vancouver, the mayoral candidates so far are
Kennedy Stewart (unnamed party) - solid Yes vote on housing
Ken Sim (A Better City) - came a very close second in 2018 as the NPA candidate
Colleen Hardwick (TEAM) - current councillor, solid No vote on housing
Mark Marissen (Progress Vancouver) - formerly YES Vancouver
John Coupar (NPA)
For anyone who wants more housing in the city of Vancouver (where rents are highest), it's absolutely critical to keep Colleen Hardwick from being elected mayor. She's the only anti-growth candidate. Problem is, voter turnout in municipal elections is usually pretty low (around 40%), so even if Colleen Hardwick's dedicated voter base is only 20% of the electorate, she could still win. We need to mobilize more people to vote, especially renters.