Grandma is swinging to the right, and so is Vision Vancouver
My column in today’s 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper talks about Vision Vancouver’s embrace of capitalism. By standing on stage with the well-heeled men and women behind the Streetohome Foundation and BC’s Premier, Mayor Robertson appears to be rejecting Vision’s previous complaints about involving private dollars in aid of our social problems. For example, Coun. Tim Stevenson to The Tyee stated:
"The private funding plan is absurdly complicated. Since the beginning, it seemed less like a workable solution than a way to prod the province into action," said Councillor Tim Stevenson, of the opposition Vision Vancouver party. "Well, now the province is acting. B.C. Housing is back in the game. So why is this necessary?"
Yes, that was then, and this is Vision now. Can you say flip-flop?
Even activist David Eby weighed in saying that the idea was "unworkable":
"I agree that it is important that there be some private sector funding of social housing," Eby said. "But the idea of forcing charity to pay for it is both unworkable and un-Canadian. What will charities be asked to pay for next? Health care?"
We’re seeing a pattern here, eh? Well, it’s pretty clear to me that with their embrace of private partnerships at the Bloedel Conservatory and the Stanley Park Petting Zoo, and Sam Sullivan’s Streetohome concept, that Vision is getting positively William F. Buckley on us.
That’s okay because we can always count on the folks on the left to counterbalance this. Note the press release from a group calling themselves "VANACT!" (or Vancouver Action) that is highly critical of the public-private partnership to deal with homelessness:
HOMELESSNESS AND HOUSING ACTIVISTS CRITICIZE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT’S RECENT HOUSING ANNOUNCEMENT
In the coming weeks, activists are hoping to place emphasis on the government’s failure to provide solutions to the housing crisis in Vancouver. In a recent announcement to contribute $205 million to social housing in Vancouver, the provincial government is seeking to re-package its current broken promises as “new” housing commitments, according to Vancouver Action activist Nathan Crompton. “The promise for these specific sites was made in an agreement between the city and the province in 2007, and construction was supposed to start in 2008. How on earth are they framing this as a ‘new’ commitment?”
Dave Diewert, of Streams of Justice, stresses “3,200 units of social housing were promised for completion prior to the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. When these 14 sites are finally constructed, the overall promises will still be broken because the Olympic Bid Book put our government on the line for 800 new units of social housing per year, which itself is meager in a city where there are up to 4,000 new condo units constructed per year.”
The completion of the promised buildings will be financed mostly by the sale and redevelopment of Little Mountain housing. Lauren Gill, of Community Advocates for Little Mountain (CALM), criticizes what she calls a “government shell game”. “The province’s needless destruction of Little Mountain last year caused the loss of hundreds of units of affordable housing, all destroyed for the benefit of private developer Holborn. It is absolutely scandalous that the money from the destruction of Little Mountain will now be retroactively funneled into a provincial housing initiative that was already promised years ago.”
Lauren Gill adds: “The current model is to sell off existing social housing units, like at Little Mountain and the Olympic Village, in order to construct some mostly-hypothetical units elsewhere. That is not a workable strategy. It’s not workable because of how fast low-income people across the city are being evicted for market up-scaling and rent increases. The strategy results in an overall loss of affordable options, giving the developers the keys to the city.”
In addition to the $205m from the provincial government, $20m will be provided for construction by private donors and developers. Tristan Markle, of Vancouver Action, says, “it’s offensive that the very same people causing the problem are being credited with providing the solution. Real-estate tycoons and property speculators are creating a citywide housing crisis by driving up existing property values and pushing people out the bottom. Yesterday these same millionaires donated a small fraction of their profits to distract from their culpability. But this inadequate response shows, above all, that the policy of relying on developers and their speculator networks to solve the housing crisis they created has come to an end. We need new, neighborhood-based leadership.”
Yes, Vision Vancouver might be embracing free market ideology, but we can count on groups out there to keep them accountable.
Be sure to pick up your copy of 24 Hours today!
– post by Mike