Vancouver residents vote on ways to ease housing crisis with Empty Homes Tax revenue

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We’re learning more about how the City of Vancouver hopes to tackle the housing crisis using the Empty Homes Tax revenue.

The city held a session on Thursday where residents and housing advocates heard proposals from the community about how the approximate $30-million should be spent, and then voted on the suggestions.

Out of six proposals there were two favourites: city support for co-ops, and temporary modular colleges.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said the money will have to be deployed strategically.

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“Whether it’s the co-ops and getting more of those co-ops going, which has a lot of traction in this room, or the ways to get buildings that are more affordable for people and then they actually have some equity going forward.”

READ MORE: City of Vancouver to collect $30M from empty homes tax

BC Non-Profit Housing Association CEO Jill Atkey says both ideas stood out for her because there’s a big demand in the co-op sector.

“And the same thing with the temporary modular college, so we see a similar idea there to what we see in the co-ops which is about agency in people’s lives and people working together to create a community,” she said.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise that both of those were the top ideas.”

These two ideas will be reviewed by city staff before a set of recommendations are presented to council in June.

Karen Ward says her idea of temporary modular colleges would house around 320 people.

She says it would also prevent people from becoming homeless again, and help them rebuild their lives.

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“[A] pilot project with eight of them with 40 people… that would be half of the modular units set aside for next year.”

READ MORE: The census found 25K empty homes in Vancouver. Empty homes tax filings show 1/3 that

Yuri Artibise with the Cooperative Housing Federation of B.C. pitched more city involvement in co-ops.

He says the revenue on the table is limiting in regards to building new housing.

“We’re trying to maximize the investment and how to improve existing and open the doors for some new people.”

Artibise suggests using the some of the existing units on city land.