April 29, 2014 11:59 am

COPE proposes Vancouver public housing authority to build 1,000 new units a year

Currently, three per cent of Vancouverities live in public housing, compared to six percent in Toronto and eight per cent in New York.

Adrian Raaber / Global News

The Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) hopes to create a city agency to build thousands of units of new social and affordable housing in Vancouver.

The civic party, which is hoping to be elected in November’s civic election, has released a 98-page report calling for the creation of a Vancouver housing authority.

The report says vacancy rates are “impossibly low,” and that families are leaving the city due to a lack of affordable housing.

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Two per cent of public school students are leaving Vancouver annually according to the report, making budget planning for the Vancouver School Board difficult.

The report looked at housing authorities in six world cities: New York , Toronto, Singapore, Hong Kong, Stockholm and Vienna.

In Singapore, 83 per cent of housing is public housing and in Stockholm, a city similar in size to Vancouver, 30 per cent of residents live in public rental housing. The tenants in Stockholm are part of the Swedish Union of Tenants, which bargains rents and maintenance on all public housing units. COPE is proposing a tenants union here in Vancouver.

Currently, three per cent of Vancouverities live in public housing, compared to six percent in Toronto and eight per cent in New York.

Sean Antrim, executive director of COPE, says they propose building 1,000 units of housing a year spread across Vancouver; including social and market housing.

“We’re talking about 1,000 units a year, which would be a mix of low-income, medium-income and market development.”

COPE says their proposed housing authority would have “developer powers” to build social housing, public rental housing and regular market housing. They also propose prioritizing social housing units for aboriginal people, migrants, women, trans people, seniors, youth, those with mental health issues and disabilities including HIV/AIDS and “vulnerable low-income people who are disproportionately at risk of homelessness and hidden homelessness.”

As for proposed rents, COPE says affordable housing should be defined as 30 per cent of household income and targeted at lower-income households. Rent should be less in neighbourhoods undergoing rapid gentrification, according to the report.

COPE also proposes making public housing available to people of various incomes to reduce stigmatization.

The party proposes to pay for this by directing development contributions and land-lease revenues into producing public housing assets.

“One of the things we looked at in the report is that most of the housing authorities around the world bring in money,” says Antrim. “We would be taking an approach where for some of the subsidized housing, we would use the Property Endowment Fund, and we’ve also talked about a luxury housing tax.”

Antrim says COPE proposes progressive property taxes as opposed to the current flat rate tax system. Rebates could be given to households under a certain threshold, he says.

“Lots of public agencies develop housing as a way to bring in money to the city and increase revenues,” says Antrim.

In 2011, COPE’s election platform proposed the creation of a city-run housing authority. They did not win any seats on Vancouver city council, but Allan Wong was elected as a school trustee. He resigned from the party in December 2013 to join Vision Vancouver.

Vancouver’s civic election is set to take place on November 15, 2014.

To read the full report, click here

© Shaw Media, 2014

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