Kennedy Stewart says if he is elected to a second term as Vancouver mayor, his new council would create 220,000 new homes in the city over the next decade, increasing the number of dwellings by 66 per cent.
Mr. Stewart released his re-election platform Tuesday, 32 days before the next civic election, a race that is being shaped by different approaches to the biggest issue facing many cities: how to provide housing, particularly to younger people, who feel shut out by out-of-reach prices for both sales and rentals.
“I think the public wants a big, bold plan and this is it,” said Mr. Stewart, who is running with a party called Forward Together Vancouver with a group of candidates that have never been elected before.
The mayor said the concern used to be about unhealthy demands on housing, such as investors and vacation-home renters, but that’s been dealt with.
“Now we’ve built a lot of housing and it has to be a mix.”
Around 140,000 of the homes would be market rental, below-market rental, social housing and co-ops.
Mr. Stewart is also pledging to extend Vancouver’s tight protections, so as to insulate renters from developers wanting to tear down aging apartment complexes for higher towers with new and inevitably more expensive suites.
Candidates for mayor – there are five of them – and political parties without mayoral candidates have staked out positions ranging from Mr. Stewart’s aggressive promise to Councillor Colleen Hardwick’s opposition to many current forms of development. In between, the others have a variety of approaches in how to increase affordable housing supply.
In all cases, it’s unclear what any of the mayoral candidates will actually be able to do since there is no guarantee any of them will get the council votes they need to pass new policies.
Critics in both pro-development and development-wary groups said the number proposed by Mr. Stewart’s platform seems to have been pulled from a hat.
Mr. Stewart’s platform does not provide specifics on how his goal will be reached.
“I don’t know where they got that 220,000 number from and even how they would make that happen,” said Marc Lee, an economist and housing-policy specialist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “It feels like it’s an arms race and we’re just going to throw big numbers at this. But Kennedy Stewart doesn’t say where these homes are going or whether it’s going to be through private developers or what.”
Vancouver approved 9,000 new homes through council decisions last year. While that was an improvement over the 4,000 approved in a year 10 years ago, it’s still nowhere near enough to meet a target of 22,000 a year.
Mr. Lee and Peter Waldkirch, a housing advocate and lawyer, said two other parties – OneCity and Progress Vancouver – have come up with clearer proposals on how they would make room for new housing.
Both have said they would allow low-rise apartment buildings throughout the city’s residential neighbourhoods instead of restricting apartments to where they often end up now – packed onto busy arterial roads or into small pockets of former industrial land.
OneCity, which is running four council candidates including current candidate Christine Boyle, hasn’t set a target. “No target is meaningful without the changes that would be needed to achieve it,” said Ms. Boyle.
Her party would also support allowing higher apartment buildings in residential areas if they are co-ops or non-profits.
Progress Vancouver, headed by Mark Marissen, has set a target of 136,000 homes in 10 years. Mr. Marissen said he would particularly target housing for areas around schools that are losing population and near transit. He’d also move to see seniors’ housing allowed everywhere in the city.
Mr. Marissen, like many, said people in the city are no longer divided along left-right lines, but are divided over whether they welcome more people in the city or don’t.
“It’s completely broken down the traditional political system.”
The Non-Partisan Association, which took time to declare its position on housing, now has a mayoral candidate, Fred Harding, who says that a huge amount of supply is going to be needed in a growing city like Vancouver.
Some groups were also critical of what Mr. Stewart has been able to achieve in housing the past four years.
The man who appears to be Mr. Stewart’s closest rival, Ken Sim, said things have gotten worse than ever under Mr. Stewart.
“During Kennedy Stewart’s term as mayor, housing prices have gone up by 18 per cent on the west side of Vancouver and by 28 per cent on the east side of Vancouver. In the last two years alone, average rents city-wide have increased by 30 per cent. Things have gotten so bad that [Housing Minister] David Eby is considering legislation to force the mayor’s hand on increasing supply.”