Rally for a National Housing Program

No more empty talk, no more empty lots

Councilor Kerry Jang checking out one of Pivot's red tents

On Monday February 15, 2010 the Power of Women organized a rally in support of Pivot Legal’s Red Tent Campaign. Pivot Legal Society has purchased 500 red tents to shelter Vancouver’s homeless citizens in response to the inadequacy of the city’s emergency shelter program. The tents display quotes from the UN Declaration of Human Rights and Mahatma Ghandi that affirm the enduring right to dignity that so many of our citizens are denied. More than providing shelter, that an additional 500 tents provided by civil society are needed to help Vancouver’s homeless only underscores our dire need of a national housing plan from the federal government that houses everyone.

The issue of homelessness and affordable housing needs a comprehensive national strategy. Libby Davies’ private members bill, C-304, “An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians” represents an excellent opportunity to develop a national plan to house all Canadians. Part of the intention of the rally was to ask citizens to request their Member of Parliament support the bill when it comes back to the House for final reading.

After the rally a march was organized to a tent village that was set up by Streams of Justice, which reinforces the recent Adam’s decision that made it legal to sleep on city property during a housing crisis.

more photos of the rally

Intercultural community garden project

Gung hay fat choy

Gung Hay Fat Choy

surveillance from the sky, the “sound of safety”

I don’t know what the phenomenon is, but the sound of helicopters in the West End with all the high rise buildings here makes quite a racket. In my role as WERA President, this is one of the email subjects that we receive on a regular basis: complaints about the sound of helicopters.

With the start of Olympics I somewhat dreaded how it would all would affect me and my family. I thought the real impact would be around transportation and getting the kids to school, but it turns out the buses have been running pretty well thus far. Except the #22, stay away from that bus as it’s a real heart-breaker; better to walk over the Burrard bridge than to wait for that one. Next week will be real test for the buses.

However, the helicopters over the Downtown peninsula have been a bit of a disturbance. I don’t meant to sound cranky, but after a little while the sound of helicopter propellers starts to drill into your head. The sound seems to reverberate between the buildings and is amplified. You can feel the sound on your body.

A while back a friend of mine wrote a message to the RCMP commenting about the helicopter noise over the West End one night and this is part of the response that he received:

“While we regret that we disturbed the peace and quiet of the residences of the West End we are unfortunately unable to control where the bad guys go. Please note that the LMD has one patrol helicopter that covers 2,500 square kilometers of area and services the needs of 2 million + residences. We do not remain in any one area any longer than absolutely required.

I hope this response answers your inquiry. I recognize what a major inconvenience it is to have a helicopter keeping you awake when you have to get up early.  We are sorry about the noise, but it is the sound of safety. ”

The last part is the best: “the sound of safety”. Note even the RCMP calls helicopters in the West End a “major inconvenience”.

Olympic torch arrives in English Bay

Brent Granby in the news

sample of some of values folk in the West End voted on in a dot democracy excercise

Residents pack community forum to demand new West End plan

In my capacity as the President of WERA I was quoted in an article in Xtra West, by Shauna Lewis in regard to proposed new developments in the West End through the City of Vancouver Stir program:

“We’re not against density and we’re not against development,” says WERA’s current president, Brent Granby. “But [development] should conform to the urgent needs of the city.”

Granby says the only way WERA would support the STIR program was if it was reviewed and mandated to consider eco-sustainability, affordability and livability within the development and rezoning process. “We don’t support any development that doesn’t create affordability and ecological sustainability.”

For the full article:Xtra West

Insite saves lives

On Wednesday Feb. 10, 3 days before the Olympics are to start, the Hon. Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, is rumoured to be inside the Chinese Cultural Centre of Vancouver in the Down Town East Side.

The day before the PM’s government announced that it would appeal a recent decision by of the BC Supreme Court that Insite, a safe injection site, could remain open as it was a matter of health which is a provincial jurisdiction.

The demo was to welcome the PM on his first day in Vancouver for the start of 2010 Winter Games and to protest the waste of tax money on a legal appeal on a proven evidence base health care intervention that saves lives.

Synthetic turf play fields, February 8 VPB special meeting

A federal government grant of $1 million trumped the results of a prolonged public consultation process that the Vancouver Park Board conducted on the selection of preferred sites in the east and west side of Vancouver for the installation of two synthetic turf fields. As liaison to the Field Sport Federation, COPE commissioner Loretta Woodcock worked with Vision Park Board Chair Aaron Jasper and long time field advocate NPA Ian Robertson in dialoging with field user groups to call a special committee meeting and subsequent extra-ordinary park board meeting on February 8 to come to consensus on which two fields to install by March 31, 2010.

The final decision resulted in the selection of west field at Jericho and the southwest field at Memorial park. Added benefit will be the rebuilding of a running track at Memorial Oval. Park Board commissioners respect the public consultation process while at the same time increasing the financial building capacity from $5.5 million to a total of $6.5 million for these new recreational amenities.

Bigger, more ecologically sustainable and more culturally diverse.

The critical issues that face the City of Vancouver in the next decade are affordability and ecological sustainability. These two issues are inextricably linked together and any credible solution will have to address both. On the affordability side, Vancouver is increasingly and rapidly becoming more and more expensive both to rent and to own. Land costs are high, construction costs are high and rents are increased due to lack of effective provincial regulation.

Currently the only plan in the city is a market-based one that assumes that folks displaced by economic forces will move to another locations that are more affordable. This market based approach is undermining the Livable Region Plan, where residents live and work in the same region thus reduce commuting and the negative impacts to the environment in emission of green house gases (ghg).

UN Habitat estimates that 80% of ghg are produced by cities. If climate change has any chance of being mitigated by reducing the amount of CO2 that are being emitted into the environment they must be reduced by 80% of 1990 levels. If one thinks of the impact to Vancouver by reducing our ghg emission by 80% we are talking of very dramatic changes. Will we be using the same type of heating systems that we use now or will have to move to geothermal regional heating systems? Will we depend on the private ownership of vehicles as our primary mode of transportation or will we move to a vigorous use of sustainable public transit systems. The built form of our cities will need to be dramatically different.

Concurrent to the issue of climate change mitigation and the need for affordability is the trend of population shift from rural to urban. Immigration will also be a driver on the size of Canadian cities. Immigration is going to be an important factor to our society’s success as our population ages and our national birth rate is becoming lower.. Cities with high population counts will have to be organized in different ways to accommodate land use. By 2050 most of the world’s population will live in cities and this has never happened before in the history of our world.

The need to reduce ghgs, the need for cities to expand to accommodate more residents and the need to provide affordable housing are cataclysmic events with no precedence. To think that a solution to these problems is going to flow from the market is unrealistic. All levels of governments are going to have to formulate plans based on rational policy development to deal with these issues. Canada needs a national housing plan that will provide for a comprehensive spectrum of housing needs and not just be targeted at home ownership. Cities are going to have to take on more responsibility to create affordable housing.