Join UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning students for a full day of discussion on planning issues related to this year’s theme, Encompass. Encompass is about embracing unexpected connections and taking planning in new directions. At the 10th annual UBC SCARP Symposium we gather inspiration from diverse sources, finding fresh ideas by looking within – and beyond – the traditional boundaries of planning. Come prepared to challenge assumptions, connect innovative ideas, and broaden your scope of planning.
Save the Date: Urban Challenges Forum
Family friendly: What does it mean to build an inclusive city?
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Douglas College (New Westminster), Room 2201
Carving out the Commons: Tenant Organizing and Housing Cooperatives in Washington, D.C.
Speakers: Amanda Huron, Lama Mugabo and Anthonia Ogundele of the Hogan’s Alley Trust Project, and Matt Hern
Wednesday, March 14
SFU Harbour Centre, Room 7000
Co-sponsored by the SFU Urban Studies Program and the SFU Department of Geography
Rethinking the Region VI: Municipal Responsibility in an Age of Urban Inequality
As cities throughout our region struggle to lower the opioid death toll, address the housing crisis, and settle often vulnerable newcomers from around the globe, this year’s Rethinking the Region offers a chance to reflect on the questions of whether and how much our municipalities have the responsibility, capacity, and imagination to address urban inequality. It’s also an opportunity to find out about regional realities and responses, learn from each other, and to improve practices.
Saturday, April 28
In planning and real estate Richard Wozny is a local legend for his ability to capture the upside of real estate in over 1,200 studies for public and private enterprises. That represents over $100 billion dollars worth of real estate work. Richard is direct, personable, and disarmingly honest. As Douglas Todd observes in the Vancouver Sun Richard smiles and says “’My job is to make sure everyone makes the most of their real estate. That means ensuring the top one per cent make ever more money.”
But despite making those rich people richer, Richard is also blunt about what needs to change and what is wrong with our current real estate system in Metro Vancouver. While in the hospital for treatment for terminal cancer Richard noticed that the hospital staff were not able to live well in Vancouver despite their stable incomes. His report Low Income and High House Prices in Vancouver outlines that a giant amount of international money is being transformed into real estate in Metro Vancouver, making houses speculative instead of much-needed shelter accessible to local citizens. House prices are way above incomes, and a good income in Metro Vancouver does not mean you afford a house. How is this happening? It is by tax avoidance and evasion, giving those speculators “an unfair advantage over average taxpaying citizens.” Richard Wozny perceives the emergence of a middle class of people as one of the greatest achievements of the past century. And taxes are what makes it possible. Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.”
Vancouver lives with “radical inequality” as there is no ability for the city’s average wage earner to purchase a house at the current prices. But Richard argues that if all residents “shared the burden of paying for public infrastructure” prices would regulate to where they would be more affordable. In a market of “unequal rights and obligations” government is needed to enforce proper regulation and taxation in a situation where that capital is “unaccounted for, untaxed and unregulated.” Of course one of the challenges of the foreign capital is that new construction requires infrastructure to be built. Richard sees the resultant congestion and the fact that equal access to public services has declined as indicators that government should collect more from real estate speculators and expand public services with those funds.Noting that “residential real estate is not an investment vehicle” Richard states that “allowing real estate prices to escalate to absurd levels, governments are allowing the middle class to be turned into mortgage slaves”.
“It means governments are supposed to protect our freedom to strive for our own personal goals. By allowing real estate prices to escalate to absurd levels, governments are allowing the middle class to be turned into ‘mortgage slaves,’” Wozny said. In summation, Richard believes that the burden for paying for roads, services and schools falls to everyone that owns real estate His conclusions are similar to SFU’s public policy specialist Josh Gordon who would like to introduce a hefty annual property surtax that would be offset by income taxes paid, with provisions for seniors. But is it too little too late? And how can the federal, provincial and municipal governments act together to quickly develop policy and enact regulation so that “mortgage slaves” can afford to live in Metro Vancouver?
Update:Richard passed away two days after this article was written. Condolences to his family from the Price Tags Vancouver editors.
So what kind of year did Price Tags Vancouver have? There were 1,359 posts published, and 456,000 page views. Over 8,600 comments were made on Price Tags Vancouver, with thirteen contributors providing content.
And the top Seven Posts?
Top Seven Posts:
1. Fun with the 2012 Census
2. Daily Durning: Vancouver History in Colour
3. Port Says Deeper Fraser River Not Needed for Massey Bridge
4. Another One Bites the Dust
5. Sandusky, Ohio and a Pier
6. Vancouver Condo Presales Cheaper in China
7. Mike Harcourt and the Massey Tunnel~Let’s Get Moving .
Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2018.
As reported in the Vancouver Courier the Musqueam First Nation is going ahead with the development of 21 acres of land they own close to the University of British Columbia. This comprehensive community will house 2,500 residents within four 18 storey highrises, townhouses and mid-rise buildings and will be called “Lelem”~”home” in the Musqueam language. Properties will be lease-hold with 99 year-long leases.A community centre, child care centre, grocery stores, restaurants, public areas and a park will be designed within this new community. The property is bounded by University Boulevard, Acadia Road, Toronto Road and Ortona Avenue and was given to the Musqueam First Nation in 2008 as part of a reconciliation, settlement and benefits agreement with the Province of British Columbia.
The Musqueam First Nation chose a developer for the first phase that has had a lot of experience in Vancouver, Polygon. Polygon is locally owned and operated for nearly 40 years, and the choice of Polygon was because of “leadership in design and development across all of their projects,” said Chief Wayne Sparrow in a news release.” The history of the Musqueam First Nation and their art will be a signature interpreted in this development. The development is expected to take ten years to build out and will create 1,900 jobs.
The Musqueam Capital Corporation will oversee the development of this land and has the former Mayor Michael Harcourt and Gordon Harris who is President and CEO of the Simon Fraser University Community Trust on their board. The chair of Polygon is Michael Audain who founded and developed the Audain Art Gallery in Whistler and supported the commissioning of the reconciliation pole at the University of British Columbia which was carved by Haida master carver James Hart and raised on the university’s main mall. This project is historically important as it is the first mixed use multi-family development undertaken by a First Nations in Metro Vancouver. Fittingly the principles espoused by the Musqueam for this new area focus upon community and belonging ““with a focus on global oneness and value for people and the environment.”
Daily Hive Images
One more reason for the Mayor of the Corporation of Delta supporting the Massey Bridge, despite all the other Mayors in Metro Vancouver nixing the project-Delta is getting a new casino! Price Tags Vancouver has previously written about the casino debacle in Delta . This new addition will be located directly east of the Massey Tunnel on the Delta Town and Country Inn site. The British Columbia Licensing Commission (the BCLC) apparently made the decision “after listening to the community and the clear feedback from the Corporation of Delta that the only suitable site on which it would consider a gambling and entertainment facility at this time is the Delta Town and Country Inn.”
The commission hired a third-party consultant that “undertook a detailed analysis of this location utilizing existing player data. This analysis shows that the Delta Town and Country Inn site will capture incremental revenue, with minimal impacts to adjacent gambling facilities in Richmond, Surrey and New Westminster.”
So why is this detrimental? As the Atlantic magazine notes, a Canadian study found that the 75 per cent of casino customers who gamble casually only provide 4 per cent of revenues. “A range of studies reviewed…estimated that between 40 to 60 per cent of casino revenues are earned from problem gamblers…drawn from the ranks of the vulnerable elderly.Half of casino visitors are over age 50, but casinos market themselves to the over 70 and even over 80 market, to whom gambling offers an escape from boredom and loneliness into a hypnotic zone of rapid-fire electronic stimuli.” With more than 15 per cent of the population in Delta over 65 years of age, the new casino will have a captive market driving to the casino’s motordom location.
Meanwhile the Richmond News reports about a theatre group that performs theatrical plays for seniors in Richmond with only one theme-the deleterious impact of gambling. Supported by the “community engagement provider” of the B.C. Responsible and Problem Gambling Program, the plays aim to warn vulnerable and lonely seniors about the danger of gambling.
“We came up with the idea five years ago to deliver meaningful messages to the public, especially seniors, through drama. We found that seniors often have a shorter attention span, so traditional methods like lectures are not very effective on them…Things that happen to older adults might make them a vulnerable group, like retirement from work and bereavement. Also, they have access to pensions and savings, and gambling might be an attractive source of recreation for them.”
The Licensing Commission continues with the party line. “BCLC respects the authority of local governments to choose whether they want a gambling facility in their community. Throughout this process, BCLC is committed to engaging with stakeholders and the public to incorporate their feedback into these plans.”
Delta gets another industry that is not 21st century focused, and certainly not sustainable in any way other than the 10 per cent revenues the Corporation will receive, which will be in the 1.5 to 3 million dollar range. All of this for a business that is all-consuming and only spits out their customers once they have no money.
Price Tags Vancouver reported yesterday about the dual mandate or double jobbing of the new Rookie MLA from Delta who was also keeping his Councillor seat at the Corporation of Delta. As reported in Price Tags this has raised some Delta taxpayer eyebrows, folks that would like to see a separation between the Province and the municipality, and were also looking forward to some fresh thinking in a burb that needs some new ideas on communities, sustainable economy and industry diversification.
Immediately the same afternoon The Delta Optimist wrote that the new MLA Ian Paton, a stalwart supporter the Massey Bridge was also keeping his council seat to prevent an election. Yes you read that right. This has nothing to do with democracy-“Mayor Lois Jackson said by not having a by-election to fill his council seat, it will save the municipality $250,000.” Imagine, there is over a year in a mandate, and there is no democratic will to gain an interested and eager member of the community for that Councillor seat. Who might have some good ideas. But by not doing the right thing, the Corporation will save money.
Mr. Paton stated that both the Mayor and the City Manager asked Mr. Paton to also continue his Councillor position despite the conflict of interest of being an MLA. Mr. Paton says “I’m as keen as mustard to be on Delta council. I get up every morning and my first hour or two is dealing with municipal issues. I’m more than capable of doing both jobs and doing both jobs very well.”
It is uncomfortable that Delta Council and the Liberal party leader are happy for Mr. Paton to do his dual role and do not see the conflicts this represents. Meanwhile on Monday evening a block of residents approached Delta council with a lengthy signed petition for a street closure with traffic calming, as they were severely impacted by vehicles short cutting to arterial streets. Delta staff had no solution, saying that the street did not come up as a major crash site with ICBC statistics. Of course it does not, it is a residential street where speeding cars are ending up in side yards and taking out hedges. But this is also an example of the increasing disconnect perceived between Council and Delta residents, and the need for more community building and working with neighbourhoods, looking at innovative solutions. Sometimes the solution is not to save money, but to actively work with the community, be part of change, try new concepts. That new kind of thinking is also needed with the Massey Bridge in abeyance. Having a newly elected independent Councillor that does not represent the “same old” approach would be a good first step.
At the end of August Angus Reid conducted a survey of Metro Vancouver residents about their preferences for a new Massey Bridge at the Massey Tunnel crossing on the Fraser River. Remember that this survey was paid for by the Association of Consulting Engineers of B.C. and the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association. Both of these organizations would have a lot of people quickly employed if the multi-billion dollar ten lane bridge was to be built. Indeed, that was solidly in the Liberals’ Provincial election platform-build the Massey Bridge, employ 6,000 British Columbians. Don’t ask whether the bridge is in the right place, is sustainable, overbuilt, or a threat to the estuary. It’s about jobs.
Respondents throughout the region were asked the following survey question: “As you may be aware, the provincial government has developed a plan that would see the four-lane Massey Tunnel replaced with a new, higher-capacity bridge over the Fraser River. What are your views on replacing the tunnel with a bridge?”
Now that question has a little bias-it is assuming the replacement of the existing tunnel with a new, shinier, higher performance huge bridge. Respondents were not given any other alternative. The way it was written and said will of course make folks go for the unseen shiny penny, not the existing plodding tunnel which has been so slandered by the Corporation of Delta as antiquated, congested, and dangerous. Never mind the fact that it has performed like a solid workhorse for nearly 60 years and has 80,000 daily vehicles, and that similar designs to this tunnel are still in daily use in Europe. Let’s not consider that the tunnel technology could be part of a hybrid solution of either twinning with a new tunnel or working in concert with a smaller new bridge.
Local press including The Vancouver Sun’s Stephanie Ip reported the survey results, which (of course) suggested that 75 per cent of regional respondents “said they would like to see a higher-capacity bridge built to replace the aging tunnel.” Those results were even collected by political party, showing that ” those who voted for the B.C. Liberals in the spring election were most likely to support the Liberal-launched bridge project, with 90 per cent voicing support. However, 64 per cent of those who voted NDP also support the project.”
And there’s some interesting stuff-only 37 per cent of respondents in Richmond/Delta, the people most impacted by tunnel “congestion” favoured the new bridge. Which gets us back to why this survey was even conducted in the first place-if you are asking folks farther out in the region what they want for an efficient driving experience, of course a new bridge sounds perfect. But for Richmond and Delta drivers, the loss of Class 1 arable farmland, the degradation of the banks of the Fraser River for industrial businesses, and the honking huge size of this multi-billion dollar bridge brings up more questions about the most efficient way to support regional transportation. An overbuilt bridge in the wrong place doesn’t solve congestion. It merely moves it.
Kudos to the current Provincial government for reviewing the billion dollar Massey bridge and working with Metro Vancouver and the Mayors’ Council to figure out what the transportation needs are on a regional basis. Let’s start planning our transit and transportation to ensure that all residents have mobility and accessibility. Let’s ensure the plan at the Massey crossing is truly the best fit, and considers all the options, not just an “either/or” on an overbuilt expensive 20th century bridge.
Price Tags Vancouver has written extensively about the existing loophole where properties in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) can be purchased with no foreign buyers’ tax, and where large mansions in the 10,000 square foot range can be built. Usurping agricultural land for a residential estate can also get your property taxes reduced to agricultural levels too, by growing a few grapes or allowing a few calves on your property. Of course once this arable farmland is gobbled up for private estates, it is no longer at a value that a farmer can afford to buy, and takes away from future food security.
In British Columbia roughly five per cent of land is zoned as agricultural land reserve an innovation from the 1970’s that protected land for agricultural use. While provincial rules regulate the land use, each property can build a single family dwelling and owners can get relaxations from building and use restrictions. When the City of Richmond deliberated about the astoundingly large mansions being built on farmland in their jurisdiction, they decided to “limit” the size of houses on the ALR to 1,000 square meters-which is still a 10,000 square foot mansion, and does not stop the degradation of agricultural land into residential mini-estates.
Metro News reports that this horrifying evaporation of farmland has been observed by the Green party leader Andrew Weaver. Weaver noticed that when the foreign buyers’ tax was introduced, buyers looked elsewhere for investment property not fettered by the tax. “Many non-residents are buying land zoned for agricultural use but instead of farming, they’re building large homes and selling the property for inflated prices.We’re seeing a preponderance of mega-mansions starting to appear on what formerly was agricultural land in parts of Metro Vancouver…Using agricultural land for pricey homes instead of farming drives up real estate prices and decreases food security. We’re now in a situation where land and houses are being treated as commodities that are traded like gold or potash or silver as opposed to their purpose.”
UBC professor Tom Davidoff is even more blunt, saying “limiting large homes on agricultural land makes sense. I think it’s wrong to have people building mega-mansions and treating them as residential real estate if the whole point of (agricultural land) is not to be residential real estate. Better you should turn it into apartments than ridiculous luxury homes.” While the BC housing minister is reviewing the foreign buyers tax to see whether it has had an impact and should be kept, Mr. Weaver is also reviewing whether farmland should be available for purchase to foreign nationals.”We want to encourage people to come live here, work here, pay taxes here. What we don’t want is third-party, offshore interests using our land, our homes as tools for speculative investment.” It remains to be seen what action will be taken by the Provincial government to reverse the carving up of the most fertile soils in Canada-and the farms of Metro Vancouver.
Globe and Mail Images
In the same way that on-line shopping trends and changing retail tastes are taking a bite out of the stand-alone shopping mall, there are other industries that will be similarly impacted-most notably for Metro Vancouver, the Port of Vancouver’s shipping. As reported in Business in Vancouver grain shipments and containerized cargo has had an increase of four per cent versus the same period of time last year, but the way cargo is managed is drastically morphing.
The challenge for the Port and other ports in North America is the tremendous sea change in how global freight is moved, and also how that freight is handled. “In its 2017 Port, Airport and Global Infrastructure seaport outlook for North America, real estate and investment management firm Jones Lang Lasalle lists five trends to watch in the freight and logistics services arena. Among the five are bigger ships and bigger shipping line alliances. Both will place enormous pressure on port cargo efficiency and infrastructure because they will concentrate the number of container ship dockings in larger vessels at fewer ports.”
This is going to require efficient loading and distribution centres, which means more industrial land beside the port for distribution centres, similar to the logistics centre on the Tsawwassen First Nations land besides Delta port. Metro Vancouver’s very low vacancy rate of 2.7 per cent for industrial land has meant that commercial real estate groups are looking longingly at land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) as the way to procure property for distribution centres. The Port of Vancouver has also been optioning agricultural land in the ALR for potential industrial expansion, using senior government status to option agricultural land at values far more than property owners can achieve selling for agricultural use. And the Port is not looking for a tiny bit of agricultural turf-as previously reported in the Vancouver Sun Port Metro Vancouver’s land use plan is looking for 930 hectares of space, “more than 10 times what the port now has in reserve.”
The Port already owns about 1,457 hectares of land of which only about 81 acres, the Gilmore Farm in Richmond is undeveloped. While the Port is renewing its farming leases on the land, the City of Richmond worries that this agricultural land will soon be transferred into Port industrial usage.
It’s an interesting conundrum-how do you maintain access to the most arable farmland in Canada and make it so that farmers can own it and farm it? How do you restrain McMansions from usurping this land as private estates? And how do you address the fact that the Port can claim “higher authority” as a federal governmental body and pay off agricultural land owners with much higher values than that received on the farm land market? And is the insatiable appetite of the port for stockpiling goods and distributing them going to remain the same in a time of e-commerce and disruptive technology?
Port Metro Vancouver’s CEO has said “Without suitable land, we will not be able to deliver economic growth to support the growing population. And without careful planning, we will not be able to make best use of the land we manage.”