Vancouver’s annual two-day homeless count recently wrapped up, and it’s clear that Vision Vancouver’s promise of ending homelessness this year is something straight from Never Never Land.
Critics have missed the point when they say that Gregor Robertson was unrealistic or naïve when he made the promise in 2008, when he first campaigned for office, to end homelessness in 2015. Such criticism implies that when he made the promise, he believed it to be achievable and he was just naïve.
But I say that the mayor was absolutely aware of the fact that he would not achieve his goal because he knew then, as he does now, that the goal isn’t doable without requiring developers to do their fair share and address this crisis. Furthermore, he was not, is not, and never will be prepared to make developers do so.
Specifically, when a developer reaps the windfall of a rezoning that increases density — and such rezonings are windfalls because they turn dirt into gold — it would be very simple and the right thing to do to require the developer to set aside a certain percentage of the new units as social housing. That means the rental rates would be set at 30 percent of a person’s income.
But here’s the catch: Doing that means losing the support — donations — of developers, which Vision Vancouver heavily relies on for its election campaigns, now among the most expensive campaigns in all of Canada when measured on a per capita basis.
Still, there may be light at the end of the tunnel for our homeless fellow citizens. I am cautiously optimistic that the province is going to introduce legislation that will bar municipal political parties from accepting donations from corporations and unions, limiting donations to only those made by individual people.
If my crystal ball is correct, we’ll see a significant leveling of the playing field in the 2018 municipal elections. More importantly, with Vision’s unhealthy and corrupt dependence on developers’ donations done away with, maybe we’ll also finally see the day when a developer appears at a public hearing to address rezoning, we’ll know in advance they don’t have a free ride.