Citizens’ Assembly: Questions & Answers

Last week, OCOP was sent a series of questions from the Citizens’ Assembly.  After a lively and collaborative discussion within the group, OCOP responded this morning as follows:

Q1: What does OCOP suggest as an alternative / transparent formula or process to define ‘affordable’ housing? How would that formula / process keep pace with cost of living, inflation, and be resistant to political tampering and continual redefinition by gentrifying neighbourhoods?

OCOP adheres to the CHMC definition of affordability that a maximum of 30% of income should be required for housing/shelter costs. This formula insulates the definition from inflation. We also suggest that this formula be included in the Vancouver Charter which would prevent governments, such as the current City Council majority, from abandoning the CHMC definition.

 Q2: OCOP was telling people at the CA [during a previous presentation] that there doesn’t need to be a new Grandview-Woodland plan…. Without one, how would Grandview-Woodland halt erosion of affordability in housing as limited housing gets produced for/rented by those with the highest incomes?

After participating in good faith, we have lost confidence in the City’s Grandview Woodland plan. The sudden appearance on the land use plan of multiple high-rise towers has made us suspicious of the entire process. We are concerned that it has become politicized and heavily influenced by the interests of big developers.

OCOP believes that the existing Grandview Plan, adopted in 1980 at a time when Grandview was failing as a neighbourhood, has produced the Grandview that we all love and cherish. OCOP believes this Plan, in essence, continues to work. We believe that future planning needs only to build on the successful Plan already in place.

At an all-candidates’ meeting on 15th October, every municipal party running in the present election – with the single exception of Vision — agreed that the proposed GW Plan should either be scrapped or paused for more consultation over the process. Further, at an all-candidates’ meeting in Grandview on 30th October all parties – including Vision – agreed that high-rise towers were inappropriate for Grandview Woodland. As Vision Councillor Andrea Reimer put it “we know they won’t fly in this neighbourhood.”

Finally, we want to recognize that the area of the GW Plan sited south of Broadway is already included in the KCC Community Vision Plan of 1998. We believe that area should be excluded from the GW Plan and be allowed to develop in line with the KCC Visions Plan, thus respecting the hard work already done by that community, and already approved by City Council.

 Q3: Does OCOP believe the population of Vancouver (and/or Grandview Woodlands) should be capped somehow, and internal migration restricted? If GW doesn’t absorb a reasonable share of the projected population increases in the next few decades, would GW not be contributing indirectly to urban sprawl?

OCOP does not believe in capping population or internal migration (even if such a bizarre suggestion could be implemented, which we doubt). This neighbourhood has always been welcoming to people from around the world.

OCOP is not concerned about more new residents. But we reject the imposition of increased density from above. We also oppose the displacement of existing residents, who won’t be able to afford the neighbourhood that would result from the GW Plan.

According to the City’s own figures, Grandview Woodland is already more densely populated than about 70% of Vancouver.

After more than two years of asking, the City has still not provided density or population projections either for the City generally or the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood. Such projections when given should include detailed analysis of how the numbers were computed, and explain how that density is to be distributed with some reasonable equity across the City. We encourage the CA to investigate this lack of data.

 Q4: OCOP / Jak King reports that at the CA meeting Oct 4, James Roy, senior policy analyst at BC Non-Profit Housing Association and Thom Armstrong, ED of the Co-op Housing Federation of BC, spoke “from the housing industry view”. What perspectives/topics should they have discussed that they didn’t? Who would OCOP nominate as better equipped (and likely willing) to discuss these issues and possible solutions with the assembly?

While OCOP believes it was interesting and important to hear the industry perspective, the CA has not yet heard from a non-industry-linked house owner, or renter, or local co-op member. OCOP encourages the CA to hear from more independent residents to get a neighbourhood perspective on these issues.

Q5: How do other cities create incentives for owners of aging rental apartment buildings to retrofit and renovate without displacing existing renters?

This is an important question, especially for the areas of Grandview that contain most of our rental housing. The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods and OCOP are currently investigating what has worked in other jurisdictions. We encourage the CA to conduct their own reviews of other cities’ plans in this regard.

Q6:   OCOP has been very critical of the CA’s barriers to participation. How does OCOP itself surmount barriers to participation by marginalized groups…. for how many languages does it provide interpretation so that a wider range of people [beyond the usual activists who typically participate in multiple organizations and can afford to devote many hours per week] can participate in its meetings? Does it offer free food, subsidies for transportation, child care, elder care? How does it schedule its meetings so that a majority of people can attend?

OCOP has always made its meetings and discussions open to all residents of the neighbourhood. Our meetings are regularly scheduled for Tuesday evenings at a central and accessible community centre. Our group represents a cross-section of the neighbourhood: including indigenous people, people with disabilities, renters, homeowners, elders, youth and those with English as a second language.

OCOP is an unfunded volunteer organization without the resources available to government institutions and therefore we, like virtually every other such group, have no ability to supply services such as the questioner describes. However, we note that we formally requested a portion of the Community Plan budget so that such services and others could be provided, and our request was declined.

We also note that translation services are not currently being offered for CA sessions and we encourage CA members to continue to request that this be put in place for all future meetings.

 Q7: OCOP refers to better neighbourhood planning processes in…. Can OCOP cite any such processes that adequately included ethnically/culturally/socioeconomically diverse groups and marginalized citizens? How was that achieved in those cases? Have these produced legally binding plans?

OCOP confirms its adherence to the Principles & Goals for Collaborative Neighbourhood-based Planning in the City of Vancouver” document of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods. We note that the document calls for 100% household surveys or, to put it another way, we call for complete inclusivity in the process, quite unlike the current Plan exercise. The document is based largely on the City Plan process that directed planning in Vancouver until the early 2000s. A number of neighbourhood plans have been implemented through the City Plan and Community Visions process that was an extension of City Plan. We encourage the CA to specifically investigate the success of City Plan.

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