Meena Wong is the only mayoral candidate with a plan to build city-owned affordable housing

COPE will expand city-owned housing stock by 800 units per year

On October 29th, 2014, mayoral candidate Meena Wong unveiled COPE’s plan to build new city-owned housing. Wong already made waves this election campaign with her plan to place a duty on vacant properties to increase rental supply and to generate funds for city-owned housing. Increasing the supply of publicly-owned housing is a crucial part of building a Vancouver that everyone can afford.

There is insufficient public housing in Vancouver:

  • The City’s Vancouver Public Housing Corporation owns only five buildings with 397 units. That is an outrageously low number.

  • BC Housing owns only 7,275 units in the City of Vancouver, while Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation owns 802.

  • Taken together, a total of only 3% of housing units in the city of Vancouver are publicly-owned.

Compare that with other notable cities:

  • The Whistler Housing Authority has built 1,900 units of affordable housing since 1997, with a clear social mandate to house over 75% of city residents. Half the units are rental, and half are purchased – with appreciation fixed to inflation.

  • Toronto Community Housing owns 2,200 buildings, housing 165,000 tenants.

  • The Hong Kong Housing Authority owns 48% of the city’s housing stock.

First, COPE will protect existing public housing:

  • COPE's "ban on renovictions" policy will stop the privatization of Stamps Place from being profitable. We don't need another Little Mountain under Vision Vancouver.

Second, COPE will expand Vancouver’s city-owned housing stock. The 2005 Homeless Action Plan, developed under the COPE-led city council, called for 800 units of social housing annually for ten years. That didn't happen. To fill this gap:

  • COPE’s Housing Authority will build 800 units of city-owned housing per year.

  • Half of this - 400 units per year - will replace the 4,000 units of privately-owned low-income hotel rooms in the Downtown Eastside with quality social housing over the next ten years.

While other parties have no plan to dedicate funds toward building city-owned affordable housing, COPE has identified multiple funding sources (annual estimates):

  • Duty on Vacant Properties ($10 million)

  • Levies and contributions from private developers ($50 million)

  • Housing Authority profits ($50 million)

  • Luxury Housing Tax ($35 million). NOTE: will not affect homes valued below $1.5 million. A property valued at $2 million would be taxed only an extra 42 dollars per month. Means tested so that low-income homeowners exempted.

  • Property Endowment Fund revenues ($10 million)

  • Lobbying / other sources ($25 million)

“COPE is learning from Housing Authorities in our region, from Whistler to UBC,” said Meena Wong. “UBC’s housing agency built three developments that have each generated about $100 million in profits for the university’s endowment. A Vancouver Housing Authority could do the same for our city.”

“Only COPE has a plan to build city-owned housing, while Vision gives away city land to private developers,” said Wong. “Vision says it’ll create a housing agency too, but it took a page out of COPE’s book and watered it down. Vision won’t build a single unit of city-owned housing. Instead they’ll just keep giving tax breaks to developers to build housing Vancouverites can’t afford.”

According to Vision Councillor Geoff Meggs, Vision’s plan is to create a “one-stop shop for developers.”

BACKGROUND: Key differences between COPE’s Housing Authority and VIsion’s so-called “housing agency”

1. Developer powers: COPE’s Housing Authority will build housing. Vision’s housing agency is not empowered to build housing.

2. Public profits: Any profits from COPE’s Housing Authority will go to the city, while Vision’s housing agency relies on private developers and allows them to keep profits.

3. Public ownership: COPE’s Housing Authority will own the housing it builds. Under Vision’s housing agency the city will not own the housing, rather the buildings will be privately owned.

4. Democratic governance: COPE’s Housing Authority will be democratically elected and represent tenants and community members, drawing on Toronto’s experience. Vision’s housing agency will be governed by a board of real estate industry experts.

5. Social housing: COPE’s Housing Authority will build social housing to end homelessness. Vision’s Housing Agency plan excludes social housing – it is all market housing.

6. Progressive funding sources: Part of COPE’s Housing Authority budget for operation and building will come from a dedicated tax on private developers and a luxury housing tax for houses valued at more than $1.5 million. Vision’s Housing Agency budget will come from general revenue and provides only for an executive board and expert consultants.

7. No corporate tax breaks: COPE’s Housing Authority will not be governed by real estate industry interests nor will it give tax breaks to real estate corporations, unlike Vision’s Housing Agency.

8. Lobbying: COPE’s Housing Authority will aggressively lobby and pressure other levels of government to support social housing. In Stockholm and New York City, tenants of the Housing Authority buildings work together to run the building and lobby for their interested. Vision’s housing agency does not plan to mobilize tenants or lobby government.