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Robertson/Anton homelessness debate turns into Occupy circus at times, but brings big issue back to the fore

November 7th, 2011 · 41 Comments

What a craaazy night at St. Andrew’s-Wesley, for a night that included threats of a riot inside the church, hymn-singing, multiple requests to people to PLEASE STOP YELLING, and some actual information about what the two main candidates have to say about homelessness and affordable housing in the city.

The tweetreporting by my various colleagues — Ian Bailey and Rod Mickelburgh at the Globe, Jeff Lee at the Sun, Stephanie Ip at 24 Hours, political gadabout Michael Geller and various others I can’t remember — was spectacular. You should check it out at #vanelxn.

It’s hard to sum up the event with so much going on at some many levels, but one comment I do have: It was hard to understand why people from Occupy Vancouver were at the event. They demanded to be let in.

They frequently yelled so much when Gregor Robertson and Suzanne Anton were talking that we couldn’t hear them, occasionally chanting “Why are we listening?” and shouting “Liar.” (Tip 1: If you don’t think people have anything worthwhile to say, perhaps don’t come to events where they are speaking.)

Then they were furious and threatened to riot when they didn’t get to ask all the questions they had lined up to ask at the end of the night. (Tip 2: If you want to have time to ask questions, don’t take up so much of it disrupting the evening.)

Okay, that digression aside, here’s some actual information from the evening, which Wendy Pedersen from Carnegie Community Action Project asked if I’d put up, since people couldn’t hear what was going on sometimes, especially at the beginning when we were asking them  for yes/no answers.

Here are those questions and answers: (Could the candidate teams please correct me if I’m wrong on any of these?)

1. Should the Downtown Eastside be maintained as primarily a low-income neighbourhood? I think I heard “yes” from both. (Suzanne tried to say something about in the short term, but we didn’t allow that.)

2. Do you think there should be more supervised injection sites? Yes, from both

3. Have you ever given money or food to a homeless person? Yes, from both

4. Were you able to buy your first house without help from your family? No, from both

5. Do you think the private market alone can come up with solutions for affordable housing? Yes, from Anton; No, from Robertson

6. Would you support a speculator tax or limit on offshore buyers of residential real estate? No, from both.

7. Will there be people living on the street in 2015? No, from both

8. Can you guarantee the majority of people who end up in the city’s 14 social housing buildings will be formerly homeless people? Yes, from both

9. Have you been to the shelter at 201 Central since it started? Yes, from both

10. Should the provincial shelter funding be made into a permanent program? Not sure on this, but I think Anton said no; Robertson said yes.

11. Should more social housing be built in the Downtown Eastside? Anton said no; Robertson said yes.

12. Should affordable housing units be built outside the Downtown Eastside? Both said yes.

13. Do you agree with no-barrier shelters? Think both said yes.

14. Would an inclusionary zoning policy, one where you require developers to build a certain percentage of affordable units into their projects like Richmond does, be workable in Vancouver? Both said No

15. I can’t remember what this question was.

The other 9 questions we asked were:

1. Both of you talked about attracting more business to Vancouver, which will mean growth. How will growth affect existing problems of affordable housing and homelessness? (Suzanne: Growth will bring jobs and jobs are how you pay for housing. Gregor: It’s a challenge and the city has to use its land assets to leverage more affordable housing.)

2. What will be your strategy this winter if the province continues to say it won’t give money for the four temporary winter shelters that are currently unfunded? (Both: Will push to get it from the province)

3. How will you balance the density you both say the city needs with neighbourhood consultation? (Suzanne: Put it in the areas where it works best, i.e. along transit, in southeast Vancouver, which could have taken more, at Oakridge, etc. Gregor: Work with neighbourhoods to create plans for growth and development that they can live with. Have started new planning processes for DTES, West End, Marpole and Grandview-Woodlands)

4. What is your plan to construct affordable housing outside the Downtown Eastside? (Suzanne: Development along transit corridors and at nodes; cutting red tape; removing obstacles for developers. Gregor: Using city land and assets, work with various partners, reduce parking, etc.)

5. Why wasn’t affordable housing created at the Olympic Village and what is your plan for the city land next to the village that will be developed in the future? (Lots of blaming going on, each pointing the finger at each other. In the end, Suzanne said likely city land nearby will have to be developed with market housing to pay for the big debt on the village that Vision has created. Gregor said future land will be developed with a mix of housing and that the current village units are selling well, city is doing best it could with village considering the mess the NPA left.)

6. What would you do to push for a national housing strategy? Push. Blah blah blah.

7. The NPA has been in charge of this city longer than any other party and has promoted “market-based solutions” for housing supply and affordability. How can people have confidence in you when that strategy has resulted in sky-high housing prices?

8. Vision’s program for creating new rental stock, STIR, was very controversial in some areas. Would you continue it and how would you make it more transparent for people so they know what developers are getting? (Gregor: I didn’t get a clear sense of what he might change about the current program to make it more palatable to those objecting. Did talk about the rental crisis in the city, the fact that 1,000 STIR units are under construction or in the pipeline with no objections from residents. Suzanne: Claimed new rental not needed because thousands of condo units being bought and then rented out all the time. Said taxpayers had to shell out $5 million in benefits to the developer of the project at Davie and Bidwell in order to get 49 high-end rentals.)

9. Would you create a shelter for aboriginals in the city? Yes.

K, done blogging for the night. Please add your comments and observations, as I’ve missed a lot here.


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