Sunday, March 30, 2008


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


Charlie Smith really got it wrong today with his headline in a Straight blog piece saying that Vision, the municipal party is "standing up for renters". This claim is in regard to a Council motion being put forward by Vision Councillors, Heather Deal and Tim Stevenson that council pass their motion which purports to assist renters in the city.

In fact, these two Councillors assisted in the wrecking of COPE, a party which has a 40 year history of championing renter rights. Alongside their good friend and development-friendly Mayor, Larry Campbell, they all consistently supported developers with their zeal to build financially lucrative condos in place of rental housing stock.

Even if you look at the 2005 municipal election campaign, Vision, including Tim Stevenson and Heather Deal, received $500,000.00 in campaign contributions from the Development industry and if there is a decision to be made between, helping out their developer-donor friends or standing up for renters, on who's side do you they will stand?

Just look at the Hastings Park controversy where Larry Campbell, Tim Stevenson and then Park Commissioner, Heather Deal, supported putting slots and a casino in Hastings Park. Vision certainly didn't stand up for the mainly renters in the area who wanted to retain Hastings Park as a neighborhood & community park. Instead they supported Wall Financial Corporation who owned the racetrack and shortly after receiving Council permission to put slots in Hastings park, Mr. Wall sold the casino, netting himself a profit of three million dollars in the process. Vision, including Councillors Stevenson and Deal were not hard done by as they received from Mr Wall, a generous campaign donation of close to $10,000.00.

Since Charlie Smith didn't properly review the Stevenson/Deal motion that purports to help renters, I shall.

First, a zero-vacancy by-law is a dumb idea. It can never be enforced because politicians cannot interfere with the running of a business enterprise, especially rental housing buildings. If suites become vacant in a building and the landlord chooses not to rent out his suite, for whatever reason, that is his or her right. If Council passed a by-law of this nature, I suspect it would quickly wind up in court costing the taxpayers large amounts of money and in the end, I'm certain the courts would rule in favor of the property owner.

Would an Anti-Vacancy by-law create more rental housing or stop rental properties from being lost? Well according to Vision, it would. I dis-agree.

Let us look though at the SRA (single room accommodation) by-law brought in by Vision. The public was told this SRA by-law would save hotel rooms. It didn't and in fact, if you want to know how many Single room occupancy rooms were lost after the introduction of the SRA by-law just go ask Pivot lawyer, David Eby. Or in fact, ask Carnegie Centre's Jean Swanson, who has long fought for tenants rights and she will say the SRA by-law hasn't worked at all.

Or ask Mark James, the owner of the Lotus Hotel, who at considerable expense to himself completely remodelled his hotel so tenants would have a private washroom, kitchen and shower in their rooms. Mr. James who has given so much to this City and its citizens, in fact, he agreed to keep the room rates affordable for fifteen years, yet saw his property value drop by a few million because of the SRA by-law. Is this fair?

The proposed anti-vacancy by-law is smoke and mirrors and Councillors Deal and Stevenson want us to think they are doing something for renters. It's to their political advantage to do so.

The Stevenson/Deal motion calls for the restoration of a residential tenancy branch to be opened up in the West End and while I happen to believe opening another office is important, I ask why the West End?

Why not ask the provincial government and federal government to consider working in partnership with the City and perhaps through the already funded Vancouver Agreement, open another residential tenancy office central to the City core. The City could even second their two two Housing experts, Judy Graves and Cameron Gray to head it up. It doesn't need to be in the West End and it should be central for all citizens impacted by homelessness, lack of affordable housing and out-of-reach home ownership.

I think the reason why Mr. Stevenson and Ms Deal want the residential tenancy office located in the West End is purely for political purposes. Could it be that Ms Deal is considering running for the NDP in the provincial election in the old West End seat that is up for grabs? Or perhaps, Mr. Stevenson wants it back. Who knows but something is fishy here.

Speaking of mirages, we don't need an office, as being pushed by Vision in the Oldtown/DTES area to gather data on evictions since we already know we have a homeless crises on our hands. Moreover, equally renters are at risk as the City becomes a city of haves and have-not's and home ownership for younger people is out of the question.

Working cooperatively with various levels of government is what is needed and this will take a willingness by politicians to put aside their partisan differences and work collaboratively instead of the highly derogatory way they currently treat each other.

If Ms Deal, Mr. Stevenson and their party, Vision truly cared about homelessness, renters-at-risk and younger folks not being able to purchase homes, they might seriously entertain that it is the development industry, which are full of speculators, who are causing much of the anxiety and angst currently happening in the City. A troublesome drift which for sure is causing major headaches, unhappiness, uncivility and most unfortunately, loss of life for many Citizens.

So why Councillor Deal and Stevenson, if you care so much about the needs of ordinary citizens, as you purport, why than are you taking so much in the way of contributions from the development, casino and bar industries?

Jamie Lee Hamilton