October’s local elections in urban southwest British Columbia showed no clear trend. Each of the more than 30 municipal jurisdictions has its own political cycle, based on local history and personalities. In Surrey and Maple Ridge we saw a return to the past; in Coquitlam, New Westminster and North Vancouver, something like the status quo; and in Mission, Port Moody, City of Langley and elsewhere, the rise of a new generation. Continue reading
Brookswood, a classic 1950s subdivision in the Township of Langley, has been locked for years in a dispute over the pace of development. It sits just minutes from malls and highways, but it has a deep country feel.
In late 2017, on the third try in four years, Township Council approved a plan that contemplates significant population growth in the Brookswood-Fernridge planning area. From fewer than 14,000 residents, the population is supposed to grow to 39,000 when projected development is complete. In percentage terms, Langley is growing faster than any other major municipality in Greater Vancouver, and it needs land for medium-density housing. The question here is whether the preservation of an old, sprawling suburb might be justified because of its special character. Continue reading
A report on housing from VanCity, a member-owned financial institution, finds a continuing decline in housing affordability in the B.C. Lower Mainland.
Home ownership costs are rising across the region as buyers look beyond the City of Vancouver. In the background, the report suggests that home ownership is a lost cause for an increasing number of British Columbians. Continue reading
The Greater Vancouver regional authority has published a “Climate Projections” document that predicts a rise of 3 degrees Celsius in the local average temperature by the 2050s, within the working lifetime of people now in their twenties.
Among other impacts, we can look forward to:
- Reduced snowpack on the coastal mountains, hotter and drier summers, and lower summertime water levels in local reservoirs.
- More very hot days and tropical nights, with demand for energy to run refrigerators and air conditioners forecast to increase to 6 times the current requirement.
- A 45% increase in “growing degree days,” a measure of the warmth that grows crops.
- Tough times for winter recreation operators.
A hypothetical example:
A young working couple struggles to pay the mortgage on a high-priced Vancouver-area home. They build a basement apartment, to code. They find a tenant and declare their rental income to Canada Revenue. The tenant causes trouble, and the B.C. Rental Tenancy Act makes the eviction slow and stressful.
So they think: why not rent our apartment to tourists or business people online, through Airbnb? We’d probably make more money, and the agency will pay for any damages if there’s trouble. Continue reading
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a left-leaning research centre, has published a report on the incidence of poverty among working people in Metro Vancouver.
The 35-page study by CCPA economist Iglika Ivanovna has major flaws as an advocacy piece, but it delivers the useful reminder that “having a job is not a guaranteed path out of poverty.” Continue reading
Some of the most critical problems in B.C. urban life can be linked to our multi-municipality system of regional government. The lack of a sustainable funding formula for public transit in Metro Vancouver, for example, can be blamed in part on years of dithering by mayors. Our local housing and homelessness policies are a mish-mash, with some municipalities clearly offloading social problems onto others.
In Ontario, a “common sense” provincial government took the drastic step of eliminating many mayors and councils in the late 1990s. The most populous region, Toronto, imploded from six cities into a single mega-city. In Ottawa, 11 municipalities merged into one. Across Ontario, 229 municipalities, or more than a quarter of the total, were wiped from the map to achieve cost savings and more efficient decision-making. Continue reading