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.

Ellen Woodsworth Homelessness Hunger Strike

Ellen Woodsworth starts 2010 Homelessness Hunger Strike

At 11 am this morning Vancouver City Councilor Ellen Woodsworth started a 7 day hunger fast as part of the 2010 Homelessness Hunger Strike Relay. Councilor Woodsworth took over from Myria Dumont who finish her 7 day hunger strike this morning.

Each week new volunteers take on the Wooden Spoon and participate in a week long fast for 7 days. The hunger strike will continue past the 2010 Olympics to June 2010.

The Hunger strike was started by community activist Am Johal to pressure the federal government to develop a national housing plan that houses everyone.

In a media release Councilor Woodsworth state her reasons for doing the the fast were as follows:

“The City has been proactive on dealing with homelessness, but the temporary HEAT shelters are just that – temporary. They close on April 30. To truly solve homelessness, we need to get other levels of government on board. Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy. The cost of keeping people off the street is significantly cheaper than the medical and other associated costs of leaving them on the streets – the hunger strike is another way to bring attention to our need for a national housing program.

Solving homelessness isn’t as complicated as curing cancer – it’s a matter of political will. We need to build homes and put supports in them so people are successful.”

Travel in a sustainable world

photo by Chris Keam
I was going to enter this piece to the Whistler Ted x contest, but miss the dead line.

“It is so do-able, I know that we could do it”. This is how I pitch the idea to my wife every year to convince her that we should buy another tandem bike and ride to Hornby Island for our yearly vacation. Her response is “ just for the record I am not riding a tandem with you to Hornby”.

My wife is a hard sell on the bikeride to Hornby with the kids. My response to her total refusal to even consider the idea is to make the economic argument. It goes something like this: “We have to rent a van for a week and this will set us back about $600 plus gas and this is half the price of a good tandem. If we rode our bikes it would be like we were making money because of the savings”.

We live in the West End of Vancouver and my wife has never had a drivers license. We’ve always chosen to live close to her work so she can walk there. For the last two years we have been members of the Car Co-op in Vancouver. After much foot dragging and lots of “we should do this -it totally makes sense” we donated our minivan (read mobile compost heap) to a charity for a tax receipt. Utube of van on tow truck hooks

My pitch has yet to be successful, but it speaks to larger issue of how we can experience the opportunities of the Pacific Northwest in a sustainable way. While it may seem like a wacky idea to ride 120 km with a 10-year old and a 12-year, there is some peer-reviewed evidence that validates my position. Paul Tranter in his ground breaking paper “Too fast, too futile: speed, time pressure and health” makes a compelling arguments that if the time that it takes to make the money to pay for all the cost of a car are factored into the transportation equation and if one factors in the health benefits of active living then travelling by bike is both faster and healthier.effective speed Continue reading Travel in a sustainable world →

96 homeless deaths in BC in three years

Feb. 2nd, 2010


96 Homeless Deaths in BC in Three Years (2006-2008)

Vancouver – As BC Housing and other partners opened up a public relations kiosk yesterday for international media, it was revealed that 96 homeless people died in BC between 2006 and 2008 according to the BC Coroner’s office.

“A homeless person dies, on average, every 11.4 days in BC – the health and human rights impacts of this marginalized existence are devastating.  For the government to be engaging in public relations such as the new information centre they set up is a perfect example of how the Olympics have been an attack on civil society in this province,” said Am Johal, Chair of the Impact on Communities Coalition.

Johal also criticized the opportunity costs of one-time Olympic spending such as $900 million for security, $500,000 for city uniforms and $300,000 for event tickets.

“The money spent for this propaganda kiosk by BC Housing is beyond comprehension since it is the public agency responsible for building housing – they should be building housing, not investing in propaganda,” said Johal.

According to the BC Coroner’s office, the cities of Vancouver and Victoria had the most deaths at 21 and 18 respectively.  62 of the 96 deaths over the three year period were of street homeless.  Of the 96 deaths, 77 were male and 19 were female.  The average age of those who died was 45.

Media – 778-895-5640

Vancouver Housing Authourity, how we will create affordabilty

How will Vancouver maintain its high quality of life if it loses its affordability? People from all over the world relocate in Vancouver. The city has a spectacular setting, situated in the valley of the Coastal Mountains, but increasingly Vancouver is becoming less affordable. The change in affordability is also going to affect the diversity of the city. Particular in the West End, where over 80% of residents are renters, keeping market rate rental units affordable is essential to ensure the neighbourhood’s diversity and to maintain and improve the livability of the community. Continue reading Vancouver Housing Authourity, how we will create affordabilty →

Red tent campaign

red tent website

Inaugrual Lighting of Canadian flag installation

Aaron Jasper, Chair of VPB with light installation and Canadian flag

OK here we go, The 2010 Winter Games have started. Buckle up for all the feel good events that are going to fill you with national pride in the days to come. Pivot has launch its Red Tent Campaign to build support for a national housing plan today.Pivot Legal WebsitePivot has 500 red tents that they are going to distribute to folks who cannot find a place in a shelter.Tyee Story about red tentsAlthough the city has open a number of new “emergency shelter” this year there still is not enough spaces for everyone who is homeless in this city.

Vancouver is a city of contradictions, great wealth and geographic beauty mixed with extreme poverty and homelessness. While everyone wants to be proud of our home town and national, we also need to remind ourselves that we still have a long way to go to being a just and equitable civil society.

The Olympics is going to be an awkward mix of national pride and shame all balled up to a blur of two weeks. The city already seems to be buzzing with visitors starting to arrive and the distribution of big “ask me” buttons at the community centres.

Today we light a big flag in Stanley Park, but also many folks will be sleeping in Pivot red tents tonight.

Inaugural Lighting of Canadian Flag Installation
at Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park on Monday, January 25

In the spirit of the upcoming 2010 Winter Games and to show off our national pride, Park Board staff have designed and installed a Canadian flag display for Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park. The public and media are invited to the inaugural lighting.

Inaugural Lighting
5:00 pm
Monday, January 25
Lost Lagoon
Best viewing from in front of the Nature House
(at the foot of Chilco Street)

The display features a 12 by 6 foot Canadian flag on a 52 foot pole surrounded at the base by a bed of white energy-efficient S.L.E.D. (seasonal light-emitting diodes) and three 36 watt L.E.D. spotlights. The location was chosen because the Stanley Park Causeway is a primary gateway into and out of the City. The display will be lit every night from dusk to dawn during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
The Board wishes to thank Coca-Cola Bottling Company for funding the project through the Park Board’s Corporate Sponsorship Program.

Monday’s Vancouver Park Board Meeting

Empire Field

At the next City of Vancouver Council Meeting of January 19, Councillor Raymond Louie has a motion on notice on the agenda that will, in effect, rubberstamp the control of the Empire Field from the PNE Board to PAVCO. What is curious about this motion is that there is no staff report attached to it. In effect, Councillor Louie is asking City Council to approve a “proposal” when there has not been any public disclosure of what the proposal is and how it is a benefit to the Vancouver citizens.
Empire Field Motion Continue reading Empire Field →