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Running for council
We need more housing.
My name is Russil Wvong, and I’m running for city council.
I was born in Vancouver. Other than 10 years in Edmonton, I’ve lived here most of my life. I’m married, and we have two children who are now 18 and 20.
Like a lot of parents in Vancouver, I’m worried about where our kids can afford to live. Over the last year or so I’ve gotten more and more involved in the housing problem. I want to make Vancouver a city where younger people, renters, and families with children can find a place to live. Right now they’re getting pushed out.
Housing in Vancouver has been expensive for a long time, but there’s no comparison between the situation 20 years ago and the situation today.
Fundamentally, we have a mismatch between jobs and housing. People don’t move to Vancouver randomly, they move here because the jobs are here. But it’s a lot easier to add jobs than it is to add housing.
Housing being so scarce and expensive makes us all poorer and worse off. The vacancy rate is stuck around 1%. It’s a terrible situation for renters. There’s about 85,000 households in Vancouver that have inadequate or unaffordable housing. Even for homeowners, it’s a bad situation. They feel like they’re getting pushed out too. They have kids, and worry about them. Employers can’t find workers, because nobody can afford to live here. That includes hospitals, which can’t find nurses and doctors.
The problem is, we don’t have enough housing to go around. We need to build more, full stop, the end.
The question is, why is it so slow and painful to get permission to build housing? How can we make it easier?
I’ve worked as a software developer since I graduated from UBC, 30 years ago. I’ve got a lot of experience digging into mysterious problems and figuring out how to fix them, working with other people.
In reading through all the policies that govern how the city works, it actually looks familiar to me. We’ve got a complicated system that’s evolved over time, and we keep adding things to it. I’d like to help fix the system.
I’m supporting Mayor Kennedy Stewart because he understands the need for more housing. He’s consistently voted for more housing.
Fundamentally, we have a lot of people who want housing, and other people who want to build it for them. It’s hard to get permission to build housing. How do we make it easier?
There’s three things: a pro-housing majority on council, fixing the system, and permitting.
First, we need a pro-housing majority on council. In most cases, to get permission to build, you need council to approve a rezoning. Having a solid pro-housing majority on council would make this easier.
Second, we need to fix the system. Council really shouldn’t be voting on each and every project. This was one of the major recommendations of the MacPhail Report. The Streamlining Rental Plan, passed by council last year, was a good step in this direction. The mayor’s Making Home proposal would make it easier to build a small townhouse complex on a single lot.
Third, even after a rezoning vote, you need to get a development permit before you can start building, and this is often slow. Mayor Kennedy Stewart set up a permitting task force in April last year, to identify and remove bottlenecks, and it’s made good progress. Most recently he’s asked them to look at providing guaranteed times for getting a permit.
70% of people in Vancouver want more housing. Only 30% think that we’re building housing too fast and we need to make it harder. But voter turnout is low. If the opponents are the only ones who show up, we get Mayor Colleen Hardwick and TEAM for a Leavable Vancouver, who don’t even believe that we have a housing shortage.
If you believe that the housing shortage is real and we need more housing, I need you to show up and vote on October 15 for Mayor Kennedy Stewart, Forward Together, and me, Russil Wvong.
Candidate page - if you want to volunteer or donate to help me get elected
Summary of the MacPhail Report
Bottlenecks to building more housing: economic viability, rezoning, permitting, construction. Construction should always be the bottleneck.