Jody Vance: The time has come to bust the development dam at Vancouver City Hall.
There is wide consensus: Metro Vancouver desperately needs more affordable housing. So how is it possible that so little has actually been accomplished?
Taxpayer dollars are vacuumed up by politicians – yet year-in and year-out we have no action on affordable housing. There are hardworking, taxpaying citizens living in tents, cars, vans and campers. This isn’t just about Oppenheimer Park, or the DTES — although those are obvious symptoms of a greater issue.
We’ve learned of 3D-printed tiny houses, able to be built in a matter of hours. Even bare-bones and temporary, that sure would be more suitable for human existence than a tent in Oppenheimer Park. We’ve seen temporary modular housing work.
Week after week we hear “it’s coming,” how “we have a plan for that,” or “we’ve approved a place that will have 80 units!”
We can do better. We must do better. Now.
The only answer, that makes any sense, is that fixing this affordability crisis isn’t good for someone’s bottom line. It’s time we shine a light on who that is.
How can it be that it takes years and years of waiting to build in Vancouver? Burnaby is thriving, Richmond booming — even Ladner is adding gentle density faster. Our permit process is a lineup flowing like molasses uphill in winter.
It’s alarmingly clear that there is a serious problem in the permitting department at Vancouver City Hall. The horror stories of acquiring permits, booking inspections and getting sign-off are the stuff of movies. A few have spun yarns that allege systems bordering on corruption.
Why aren’t we working around the clock to put affordable housing on city owned land? Whoever is blocking that needs a gut check. If their family or friends were living on the street or car, grabbing showers at the YMCA, I’d bet my house that the urgency would increase.
Playing politics at the expense of the most vulnerable must stop. It is beyond time to call out where the roadblocks are and clear the way for change. Identify the issues and bring necessary change to our policies.
This isn’t brain surgery — stop talking and start building.
On UnSpun Podcast, I often point out the speed of construction around BC Place. The Parq Casino and Hotel went up in what felt like seconds. Construction teams worked around the clock, in all weather, on Sundays and holidays, and boom: done. High-end hotel rooms, a money machine casino, and multimillion-dollar safety deposit boxes in the sky. So much wealth built so swiftly.
No. This is not a “slam the developer” column, this is a “slam the permitting department” column. The system shouldn’t be “first in, first out,” but based on urgent need of the taxpayer. Development for units to house citizens in crisis should jump the line — or a new permit department for affordable builds should be created.
Why are we still dancing around the need for mental health support facilities, close to affordable housing, with recovery spaces? We collectively throw $365 million per year into the DTES. How much could be done with that sort of money over, I dunno, let’s say 10 years? Imagine if it had been redirected in 2010, or sooner, to make change.
Yes, I am frustrated. Ask almost anyone in the business of building and they will tell you the real problem is with the gatekeepers. The time has come to identify the dam and remove it.
Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.