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Gregor Robertson defends Vancouver’s proposed affordable rental project

Sun, Jul 23: Sonia Deol sits down with Mayor Gregor Robertson and asks him why he thinks this new rental housing plan could actually work. He also reacts to critics saying it’s really all part of seeking another term in office.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is defending a pilot project announced Sunday that the city hopes would create more affordable housing.

He also answered a key question about his political future.

Coverage of affordability in Vancouver on Globalnews.ca:

Speaking to Global News, Robertson said the city has struggled to keep up with market forces.

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“The challenge has been the market just keeps outpacing everything that we do here in Vancouver, and we need all levels of government to focus on this,” he said.

“Historically, (the) federal government built a lot of housing, a lot of co-op housing. The provincial government funded a lot of social housing.

“We need them back in the game too, so that all levels of government are focused. It’s not just a Vancouver problem, it’s impacting, you know, right across the country.”

He outlined steps that the city has already taken to tackle housing affordability.

“We had the first rental incentive program years ago. Six or seven years ago, to build rental housing, to get the supply up. And over time, we realized we can’t just create more supply, we have to tie some of that supply to affordability.”

READ MORE: Affordable rental project could turn housing into Vancouver’s ‘Hunger Games’: activist

Robertson said that nobody expected prices to climb the way they have in recent years.

“I don’t think there’s anyone that expected Vancouver to be in the leagues of New York and London,” he said.

“If you said that five or 10 years ago, people wouldn’t believe that Vancouver’s market would be this intense.”

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Asked whether the idea behind the project is to take him into another term, Robertson said, “yeah, I think this is part of that.”

“We’ve been working on this for the past year, lots of engagement and consultation,” he said.

“Over 10,000 people have fed in ideas for more housing and more affordable housing, so this is, we’re rolling out the changes that we’ve heard back from people in Vancouver over the past year.”

READ MORE: Vancouver hosts ‘Big Conversation’ to address future of affordable housing

Robertson said he’s talking affordability with the new provincial government.

“(I) had a good conversation with the new housing minister in B.C., Minister [Selina] Robinson, and (I’m) looking forward to working with the B.C. government now. They’ve definitely demonstrated a real interest in more affordable housing, helping us tackle homelessness. Those are gonna be big initiatives I think we can combine on.”

He adds he’s feeling optimistic about the new provincial government moving forward.

“It’s mainly about the platform, the commitments that they made to invest in affordable housing and solving homelessness. We didn’t see that commitment from the BC Liberals. You know, they made some investments, but it wasn’t enough. We have a crisis in the region in particular, and a new government that I think is aware of the crisis and committed to doing something about it.”

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The Cambie Corridor Phase 3 Plan would require new buildings to have a number of designated rental units for tenants making a maximum of $80,000 a year.

  • With files from Sonia Deol and Jesse Ferreras