Petitioning Ottawa for a break on rental housing

The latest report from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation shows that average rents in Metro Vancouver are the highest in Canada, at $1,237 for a two-bedroom suite in a 1990s apartment building.  Vacancy rates in autumn 2011 were low and declining on the west side of the region — 1.2 per cent in Richmond, 0.7 per cent in the City of Vancouver and 0.4 per cent in the District of North Van.

The Metro Vancouver regional authority has warned for somet time that a critical shortage of affordable rental space is  hurting families and contributing to homelessness.  In the 2006 census, 55 per cent of homes in the City of Vancouver were rental properties, and more than 40 per cent in Burnaby, New West and  North Van City.  There’s demand for more units, but they’re not getting built.   Continue reading

What Are We Voting For?

On November 19, 2011, British Columbia voters get a chance to cast their ballots for local government councils and school boards.  Past experience suggests that in most local areas, something between 25 and 30 per cent of voters will take the opportunity.

In my home town of Maple Ridge, perhaps 25 people will step forward to contest six municipal council seats.  Four or five members of the outgoing council will likely be re-elected; one has retired.  In other words, the hopes for the newcomers are slim, and the best odds lie with members of past councils who are recycling themselves back into political life.  Continue reading

Amalgamating Metro’s municipalities

Early in my career as a news reporter I covered local council meetings in Greater Ottawa — travelling to such high spots as the City of Nepean, the City of Gloucester, and the City of Kanata.  The new Ontario Conservative government of the 1990s moved with haste to abolish these jurisdictions and dozens of others, creating unified megacities in Ottawa, Toronto and elsewhere.

The justification in Ontario was that larger government units are less costly and better at making decisions.  This same argument is occasionally heard in Fraseropolis (there is an ongoing back-and-forth on SkyscraperPage). But British Columbia has never elected a megacitifying provincial regime, and the regional district of Metro Vancouver still takes in a bewildering variety of cities, towns and villages.  Continue reading

Megacities and minicities

As I open this blog site, an internationally acclaimed Canadian writer has criticized the Mayor of Toronto’s proposal to close neighbourhood public libraries.   Mayor Rob Ford responded that if Margaret Atwood got elected to something, he might listen to her.

In other words, if you’re an ordinary citizen, don’t bother to speak up. Continue reading