Governance & Politics
March 28, 2019

Jim Hanson’s Brilliant Idea for Housing in District of No Vancouver

You may have caught wind of the District of No Vancouver’s — how shall we say — odd approach to doing their part on the region’s housing issue.

Young people, seniors, low and fixed-income folks are struggling to live near services, employment and schools. Without sufficient or reasonable housing options in town centres and near transit, these vulnerable segments of our society are not just experiencing the stress of housing insecurity, they’re getting pushed out.

DNV is quite simply saying no to efforts to accommodate people in need. Repeatedly. Over and over again.

But Councillor Jim Hanson of team “No Vancouver” (pssst….this domain is available) has a solution.

Since it doesn’t look good to say no to people in need of housing, try saying yes, but in a different way. As in — “Yes, we’d like to give housing to people in need. We’ll just take it away from others.”

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Much continues to be said and written about the District of No Vancouver’s compulsive nixing of social and non-market housing projects.

In particular, current Councillor Mathew Bond is a frequent critic of the actions of his counterparts on Council. His Twitter feed serves as running commentary of No after No after No…somehow, he manages to keep an even and rational tone. Maybe just a hint of strain. The sound of one head slapping. Do you hear it?

Bond can’t afford to flame out at his colleagues too hard, because, much like a certain Federal ex-cabinet minister, he still has to work with these people, no matter how ethically challenged.

The parallel ends there, however; he’s member of an elected council, not of a party. He can’t hand in his card, cross the floor, and still keep his power. It’s a District council, and there’s no aisle to cross. He’d have to climb over the Clerk, and then where’d he be?

But he’s not the only one speaking out. Steven Petersson is a former DNV planner, and not only did he write a Master’s thesis on affordable housing provision, he worked as a residential support worker for disabled people for seven years.

In a recent letter to Mayor Little and his NIMBY cohorts — Councillors Muri, Curren, Forbes and Hanson — Petersson lays it on the line:

There’s a desperate community need for social and affordable housing.

Why put the needs of elites who already have homes over the disadvantaged who need your help?

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Google ‘Tumlin NIMBY’ or ‘Tumlin Santa Monica’, and you can see a little bit of the story arc.

An effective stage-setting for a dialogue earlier this month, in front of a small gathering at Gord’s West End apartment, with Jeff Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy for Nelson Nygaard.

One in a long-running series of Price Tags Soirées, and our first live audience recording, the chat included a Q&A with a few special guests well-known to #vanpoli followers.

Tumlin, raised in LA and happily transplanted to San Francisco via Stanford university in the late 1980’s, survived the recession of the early ’90s by (essentially) growing a branch of the transportation demand management tree — he was able to, over time, convert Stanford’s campus-wide parking into more money to support the implementation of a multi-modal transportation strategy.

Parking = $$$, and he turned it into a generous bankroll for university, and a career for himself with one of North America’s most-respected transportation consulting firms. He’s become an expert in helping communities move from discord to agreement about the future of transportation, and in the conversation you can hear he loves the challenge.  Calling inequity and privilege for what it is and, in the fight for public space, using compassion and humour to move forward.

True, he tacitly acknowledges, sometimes it doesn’t work, as with Santa Monica. But eventually his clients seem to get there, one way or another.

** Spoiler alert: North Shore policy and politics do indeed come up. Why do you think he was in town?

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We’ve covered the rejection by the District of North Vancouver Council of the Delbrook affordable housing proposal, CHAC funding and previous consultation processes.  Here’s another:

Hollyburn Family Services project killed in camera

  • Hollyburn Family Services operates two safe houses/transition houses for young people on Mount Seymour Parkway, in two single-family homes that house six young people each.  Hollyburn leases the land from the DNV.
  • Hollyburn put some resources into crafting a proposal to redevelop the sites into a larger, multi-family style facility with approximately 40 units.
  • Additional density on Mount Seymour Parkway was not acceptable to the majority on DNV Council, so they rejected the proposal. They were able to kill the project in camera because it was a decision re: the disposition of DNV land.

 

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As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on the subject, last night the District of North Vancouver council did what it was expected to with the affordable housing file — continue to sit on it.

Councillors voted along ideological lines, with five votes against two, declining to provide $11,512 in ongoing core funding to CHAC, the housing action arm of North Shore Community Resources.

The non-profit must now pursue alternate funding from the municipality by way of smaller grants, or discontinue plans to tackle affordable housing in 2019.

The qualities of the debate around housing in DNV have become simultaneously evidence-based, emotional, and partisan. This was on full display yesterday, demonstrated by some of the combative words from Mayor Little and other council members in their fight for or against the motion. Here are some highlights/lowlights from a watcher of the broadcast:

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It’s a motion that could be considered a little too on-the-nose.  The District of North Vancouver’s new council — which previously nixed a non-market and seniors housing project in order to preserve a parking lot —has set itself up to vote tonight on whether to grant operating funds to a housing affordability advocacy group.

Development planner Chuck Brook called out the motion in the latest episode of the Price Talks podcast, highlighting the potential for DNV to make yet another decision that not only exemplifies but exacerbates the housing problems on the North Shore.

The Community Housing Action Committee (CHAC), part of the North Shore Community Resources Society (NSCRS), provides “a tri-municipal voice and platform for discussion, sharing of ideas, advocacy, and research into housing affordability on the North Shore”. Like many other volunteer or non-profit groups — such as NS Childcare Resource & Referral, Family Services of the North Shore, or Hollyburn Family Services Society Youth Safe House — CHAC has relied on core funding from the District to fund its research, policy development and outreach activities, all focused on affordable housing advocacy.

Yet at a January 21 council meeting, DNV council passed a motion to review the CHAC funding request of $11,517.

Council has since received a report from DNV’s senior community planner Natasha Letchford, and the debate — and a decision — will likely occur this evening. (Live broadcast begins at 7pm.)

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Gord visited District of North Vancouver Municipal Hall this week, to chat with Councillor Mathew Bond about about the failed Delbrook motion to allow a parking lot at 600 W Queens Road to become the site of an 80-unit affordable residential building, with a seniors respite care and below-market rentals.  It was rejected 5-2 by the new council — following two years of planning and community consultation, the result of a complex partnership and collaboration.

What does the vote say about the next four years of housing debate and action in the District of North Vancouver? Some big questions, and pregnant pauses, in today’s episode.

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Yesterday, Part I of our exit interview with District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton covered issues demonstrating the typical range of concerns acknowledged by mayors in other cities.

Such as the appearance of traffic backups from the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge to Lower Lonsdale in 2012, within days of the opening of the Port Mann Bridge…25 kilometres away. The critical, cross-jurisdictional piece of North Shore infrastructure that he believes everyone has forgotten about. And the reasons why mistrust and resentment are brewing away in one District community, on the basis of new developments, lack of housing affordability, and traffic.

Check it out, and read Part II below — on North Van being caught in the missing middle, on engaging the community on change, and what that change may need to look like in the near future.

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In this 4th in our series of Mayoral Exit Interviews, Richard Walton of the District of West Vancouver, who has spent fully one-third of his life in public service — as school trustee (1986-’93), then as councillor (2002-’05), and finally as mayor (’05-’18).

Walton has also done what many of today’s mayoral candidates may not fully appreciate as an essential part of the job — serving on the Boards of a number of organizations representing the enormous operational complexity and cultural diversity of this region: B.C. Games for Athletes with Disability, Fraser Basin Council, Metro Vancouver, Municipal Finance Authority of BC, Mayors’ Council, North Vancouver Police Committee, and Metro Vancouver (GVRD) committees on Culture, Environment and Energy, Federal Gas Tax, Finance, Performance and Audit, Port Cities, to name a few.

In 2004, Walton also reinforced one of the more unfortunate stereotypes of chartered accountants everywhere, by co-founding the World Mountain Bike Conference and Festival.

The brain drain continues with his retirement this fall; here’s part I of our exit interview. 

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Thanks for all the good guesses.  And maybe an apology for the “only four restaurants” clue.  My reliable source may not have taken into account Deep Cove.

But maybe those of you who live in the District of North Vancouver can clarify.  For indeed, that is the municipality in question – not the City of North Van, note.

Most surprising to me is the fact that over half the population will be aged 65 and over within the decade, and the implications that will have for the District’s future – especially given their citizenry’s reluctance to change.  “‘They expect to go out of their single-family homes (which constitute over 60 per cent of the housing stock) in boxes,” said my source, and aren’t much interested in accommodating any significant growth in the meantime.  Hence the closing schools, the decline in jobs (only about half the population is working) and the lack of anything open much past 7 pm.

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