As we approach the May 9 BC provincial election, The West End Journal invited each of the three candidates in the West End - Coal Harbour riding to identify the key issue uppermost in their minds, and present three concrete proposals they would put forward to address that issue. The following (in order by last name) are their responses.
Spencer Chandra Herbert
The New Democratic Party of British Columbia
Action on our community's housing affordability crisis is my number one priority.
t’s never been harder to find affordable housing in Vancouver. And residents of the West End have been particularly hard hit by Christy Clark's government's refusal to act for renters who have been facing mass evictions, and outrageous rent hikes. I want action for renters now. Renters shouldn't have to live in fear of an eviction notice or a massive rent hike.
Since first elected In 2008 I have worked hard for West End and Coal Harbour residents, and helped keep hundreds of people in their homes and off the streets through standing up against unfair eviction attempts, and by helping co-found Vancouver's rent bank. I'm asking for your support so I can keep standing up for our community.
A BCNDP government would act to make housing more affordable. We’d do this by taxing speculators who don’t pay income tax in BC, and who fail to rent empty homes. We'd put the money raised back into housing, and with additional investments help spark a construction boom with the creation of 114,000 low and middle income affordable rental, social, co-op, and for purchase housing units across BC. As well we'd give communities the tools they need to protect rental buildings, and deal with short term rentals. These measures will protect and increase the supply of affordable housing.
We would close the loopholes the BC Liberals added to our residential tenancy laws that hurt renters. We would get rid of the geographic rent increase clause that leaves some renters in the West End facing rent hikes of more than 40 per cent. We would introduce stronger protections to stop landlords from abusing renovations to kick out long term tenants. And we would close the fixed term lease loophole that is being used to evict, and massively increase rents.
For too long renters in this province have been treated like second class citizens. The BC Liberals have refused to act for years while West Ender after West Ender have lost their home and community. A BC NDP government will take real action to protect renters, penalize those that break the law for profit, and ensure the residential tenancy branch has the resources to do its job.
Finally while homeowners here get a break on their property taxes, renters don't when they pay their landlords taxes through their rent. This isn't fair. A BC New Democrat government will act for fairness and give rental households $400 a year in a renters rebate.
It's a small step along with other affordability measures like eliminating the MSP, $10 a day childcare, and raising the minimum wage that we believe will help make life more affordable.
Together, we can build a better BC, one where great, affordable housing is something we can count on, not see as an exception. I ask for your support when you vote on May 9th so I can keep working with you to make that a reality.
The Liberal Party of British Columbia
Like most West Enders, I’m a renter, and, like most renters, I’m concerned about housing affordability in our community.
I’ve outlined three steps I will take to address this issue if I have the honour of serving the people of Vancouver-West End in government:
1. Open up new and existing rental supply: The key to addressing the cost of housing is ensuring that supply keeps up with demand. Simply put, if there is more demand than supply, the cost of rent goes up. If elected the MLA for Vancouver-West End I will:
- Continue the foreign speculation tax to cool overseas demand for homes in Metro Vancouver, enabling more local people to get into the ownership market. This in turn will help free up rental supply.
- Continue the BC HOME Partnership Program, which will help 42,000 households buy their first home. This will have a positive impact on rental supply, further helping reduce the impacts of high demand.
2. Advocate for renters at all levels of government: Vancouver and West End renters need a strong voice in Victoria pushing for housing action at all levels of government. If elected the MLA for Vancouver-West End I will:
- Regularly consult renters on their challenges and priorities, to make sure the provincial government is responsive to their needs.
- Work with the City of Vancouver to make sure it’s doing its part to increase rental supply. There are currently thousands of units of housing awaiting approvals from the City of Vancouver. If more of these units entered the housing supply, this would help manage the demand for rental units in Vancouver, which has been pushing up prices.
- Work with the federal government to reinstate the Multi-Unit Rental Buildings tax incentives – encouraging developers to build more rental housing in our community.
3. Enhance housing supports for those who need them the most: Not everyone can afford to live independently, and it is incumbent on us as a society to provide housing supports for the people who need them the most. If elected the MLA for Vancouver-West End I will:
- Build on B.C.’s investments in affordable housing. Last year the B.C. government made the single largest provincial investment in affordable housing in Canada’s history, with $920 million invested for 5,300 new units of affordable housing. This adds to the 24,000 units already created through $6.3 billion dollars invested since 2001. I will make sure we continue to make record investments in affordable housing.
- Continue our investments in rent subsidy programs like SAFER and RAP, which help seniors and people on lower incomes afford their rent.
Housing affordability is important to West Enders and it’s important to me. I’ve outlined the steps I would take to free up rental supply, stand up for renters, and support people who need help the most. I look forward to hearing your feedback, and I hope you’ll consider voting for me on May 9.
The Green Party of British Columbia
Early on in the campaign, one of our provincial team staff gave all of the candidates a call to ask them what they had been hearing from their community, what issues they were hearing on the streets that were important to people.
At the time I had just begun getting out and talking to people, but I already had a clear answer for her. It's what I expected would be the top concern on people's minds before I was even considering running in this election, it's something that naturally comes up in every conversation when you're chatting with friends about life in Vancouver, and it's something that is so critical because the government of the past 16 years has willfully failed to solve it: How are we going to afford to keep living here?
The BC Liberals have had 16 years to solve this growing problem and they have chosen not to. The BC NDP has had 16 years to inspire British Columbians with a solution that will carry them through an election, and so far they have been unsuccessful. I believe that the problem has reached a crisis level similar to that of medicare in Saskatchewan in the 1960s, a crisis that required a bold solution and that led us to our single payer healthcare system today.
I'm extremely proud that the BC Greens are proposing powerful steps to solve this, because if the province doesn't take steps like these there's a good chance I won't be able to keep living in the place that I grew up in. We're planning on eliminating international property speculation by turning the property transfer tax into a progressive tax, starting at 0% on the first $200,000 of value, up to 12% on property over $3 million (It would remain at 2% for homes under $1 million). We want to apply the PTT to transfer of beneficial ownership, eliminating a loophole that lets speculators avoid paying it. We want to expand the foreign buyers tax to 30% and have it apply across the whole province, while making sure it doesn't affect new immigrants working and paying taxes in BC.
We want to invest up to $750 million per year in supporting the construction of 4,000 new units of affordable housing. We want to enhance the provisions of the Residential Tenancy Act, to protect tenants from tenure termination. Tenants must be given first right of refusal upon completion of renovations, and landlords must apply to the residential tenancies branch for approval of rent increased with proof of actual costs incurred. We will protect existing social housing and reduce operating costs by investing $100 million per year in retrofits and renovations of older units. For developers engaging in "demovictions", developers must reinstate a percentage of lost affordable housing in new developments and all prior tenants must be given first right of refusal for those suites. We will transition the Home Owner Grant system to one of income-based grants so that support goes towards those struggling to stay in their homes, not the already well-off.
There's even more in our Affordable Housing platform, which can be found online. I hope that you take the time to read it, and consider trusting us with this incredibly important task for our future.