Campaigns for the upcoming municipal election are in full swing! To help you get informed before casting your vote, we are offering an opportunity to learn more about candidates’ views on pertinent issues in the Capital Regional District. We invited candidates to participate in a survey asking 4 questions on their plans to address poverty and affordable housing.
Today we are posting the responses from Victoria candidates. Survey respondents have been invited to an all-candidates meeting on November 9, 2011 at First Metropolitan Church, 925 Balmoral Road from 7 to 9pm.
1. The City of Victoria has adopted a Harm Reduction policy framework. What action steps will you take or support to ensure the strategies are implemented?
Mr. Paul Brown: I am an advocate for Harm Reduction and will support the establishment of a safe injection site and the distribution of materials needed to mitigate risk associated with those who suffer from addictions. The Vancouver Island Health Authority has the expertise and is the entity that should be responsible for the site, and I will support their efforts to this end.
Mr. Steve Filipovic: I am a firm believer in Harm reduction, the first thing I would do as Mayor would be to create Tent Cities, modelled after the Dignity Village in Portland Oregon. This would immediately bring a reasonable level of service for those on the streets and lower the costs associated with this unjust situation. We could then refocus our resources to re-mediating the issues individuals are facing. I think this city is in need of 3-5 small tent cities.
Mayor Dean Fortin: I am a strong supporter of harm reduction services, and remain committed to working with our partners, the health authority, police, and services providers, to make sure we are advancing services in a way that supports both the vulnerable members of our community and the community at large. Part of this must focus on policy that is progressive, and built into a housing first strategy.
Further, I am encouraged by the recent Supreme Court Ruling regarding Insite, and believe we need to explore a ‘made-in-Victoria’ model for safe consumption.
Ms. Marianne Alto: As the Councillor who proposed that policy and framework, I am committed to doing all I can to ensure its integrated components are implemented in a cohesive, complete manner. Having secured City Council support for the framework, I will continue to advocate for its implementation. I will work with all the interests necessary to make sure this framework is well designed and uses best practices in its operation. Bringing this initiative to life will take an inclusive collaboration among community members, health service providers, police, the City and many others. I strongly believe we can create a locally appropriate continuum of health services for vulnerable people that will work for Victoria.
Mr. Chris Coleman: In the last 7 years, since adopting the Harm Reduction policy framework, the City of Victoria has gone through an enormous learning curve. We now have a greater grasp of a profoundly complex issue, but we haven’t been able to solve the issue of clearly articulating our priorities within the five pillar structure (investments in prevention are often seen as “competing with” treatment options; the “enforcement” leg is often at odds with the notion of a “supervised consumption site/contact centre”; there is never enough dollars for the appropriate housing options and so we tend to muddle through with the small allocations of resources that allow us to do “a little bit here & a little bit there”).
I will continue to work with the Finance Committee of the Coalition to End Homelessness to raise awareness (and dollars). While we have had some significant successes (and arguably have staunched the growth of the homeless population), there is still a long way to go, and a profound need for more targeted resources.
Ms. Shellie Gudgeon: I have just finished reading the ‘Housing and Harm Reduction’ policy. It is a brilliant, well-researched and pertinent document. The strategies outlined need to be implemented immediately. Once elected, I will press and encourage my colleagues as well as city staff to take action as soon as possible. Leaders of various community associations would be contacted to discuss strategy implementation. It is vital that community leaders, advocacy groups and the residents at large are made aware of this important document and are encouraged to act upon it immediately. I will not give up!
Ms. Lisa Helps: I’ve worked as a facilitator with AIDS Vancouver Island over the past year and a half. Through my work with AVI, I’ve gained a clear picture of the benefits of the four pillars of harm reduction and of a client centred approach to health and well-being. I will work to ensure that the City’s Harm Reduction policy framework turns into an action plan and that this action plans turns into action. In order to do this, it means building consensus among a number of key stakeholders including AVI, VIHA, SOLID, HRV, the City and the Downtown Victoria Business Association, to name a few. I have experience and success bringing a diversity of people with different experiences and points of view together and getting things done. I bring this experience to the Council table with me.
Ms. Rose Henry: I would support any actions the city will create or endorse that will honor the lives of those people living with addictions. If this means opening up a 24hour needle exchange then I say ‘yes’ if this means opening detox centres 24/7 then I say yes. If this means setting up treatment services closer to where people live then I say yes because I understand that not all addicts live on the streets or downtown.
Ms. Lynn Hunter: It will take collaboration from VIHA, the Victoria Police, service providers and the City to successfully implement the Harm Reduction Policy Framework. I will work with all of those partners to make this happen.
Mr. Ben Isitt: I will move a resolution at Victoria City Council by January 2012 supporting in principle the opening of a safe-consumption site at the earliest possible date, and directing staff to begin discussions with the Vancouver Island Health Authority, AIDS Vancouver Island, and the Society of Living Intravenous Drug Users (SOLID) on capital and operating funding, location, and application for a Health Canada exemption.
Mr. Robin Kimpton: I would begin by working to convey the Harm Reduction policy to any and all community organizations, rental organizations, social housing organizations that will give an ear to increase understanding of the potential of such programs.
I would also take a keen interest in following the progress of the Harm Reduction policy and feel that I could be instrumental in helping to furnish its proponents with shining examples of success stories in order to continue its promotion.
In a more practical sense, I am currently engaged in new business models for safe, sustainable, entry level housing that focuses on helping people overcome their barriers to housing and would very much welcome discussion and ideas that don’t use up millions in tax dollars.
Mr. Philippe Lucas: I’m a Research Affiliate with the Center for Addictions Research, and a long-time advocate for evidence-based approaches to substance use and addiction. Although I support the City of Victoria’s Harm Reduction Policy, I could only do so once the experience and advice of social service providers was incorporated into the document to minimize the most grievous aspects of the policy (such as the proposed banning of food distribution through needle exchange services). Over the last three years I have promoted much more direct municipal involvement and advocacy for the distribution of harm reduction services in our community, passing motions in support of a) the re-establishment of a fixed-site needle exchange (I was the city’s representative on the now defunct VIHA committee tasked with doing so); b) the distribution of crack kits; and c) the establishment of one or more supervised consumption sites in Victoria. Additionally, I’ve hosted a number of harm reduction and drug policy panels and discussions both at City Hall and in the community, and over the next three years I’ll continue to create opportunities to educate the public and to advocate for public-health approaches to substance use based on science, reason and compassion. That includes both fixed and distributed harm reduction and needle exchange facilities, and the establishment of supervised consumption sites in Victoria.
Mr. John Luton: I believe we need to continue to work constructively with VIHA and other stakeholders to establish a location and a service design to deliver on our harm reduction policies. While in Vancouver for the Union of BC Municipalities I toured, with several other councillors from Victoria and other municipalities, both the Dr. Peter Centre and Insite. Both were very useful and have operations we should be able to import to Victoria, especially now with the Supreme Court decision supporting the right of the province to deliver health services through effective models like Insite. We need also to secure appropriate cooperation from our police forces and others in the community to ensure that harm reduction services can be secured for the long term. Beyond safe consumption services, we need also to ensure access to needle exchange and safe crack consumption equipment is available to help prevent disease transmission and other health impacts associated with drug use and addictions.
Ms. Pamela Madoff: As a member of Victoria City Council I have consistently supported the Harm Reduction policy framework. I will continue to support the work of the coalition, and in particular, VIHA, in ensuring that the policy is implemented. The recent Supreme Court decision, specific to the Insite facility, in Vancouver, will be very helpful in determining what the next steps will be. I believe that in order for a needle exchange facility to be successful it must be part of a comprehensive offering of harm reduction initiatives including access to health care and detox and a safe injection site.
Ms. Linda McGrew: I personally believe in the principals of harm reduction, from safe injection sites to outreach and education of safe sex and options. I would support all policies put forth in the Harm Reduction policy framework found online, and work to ensure that the strategies are being implemented in a timely manner, with proper feedback mechanisms to ensure they are working as they should.
Mr. Sean Murray: I am in favour of a safe injection site, I would set up a committee and also explain to the public that this makes things safer for everyone not just the junkies.
Ms. Charlayne Thornton-Joe: The actions that I have taken so far is to educate others, especially municipal politicians throughout the region on the issue of harm reduction.
A few years ago when Dr. Stanwick came to the CRD to speak about the issue of crack kits, I spoke about the importance of this distribution as a form of harm reduction. Also, as recently as last month, I arranged (with the help of Dr. Bernie Pauly) a tour to Insite and the Dr. Peter Centre and invited municipal elected officials from our Capital Region to join me. A few years ago, I took part on a press conference panel at AVI to reinforce the need for ongoing and sufficient funding for AVI, when there were concerns that some of the funding was going to be moved to the north island, instead of new funding to provide for the north island without negatively effecting the funding for the south island. I have spoken to tourism and business groups and leaders through the years of the importance of harm reduction services in Greater Victoria. I believe that educating the public is extremely important for this issue. I have also spoken about the need for mobile and fixed needle sites (not just one site). I am supportive of a distributed model for the entire region, not just in the City of Victoria, especially considering that mobile needle vans do distribute to areas outside the four core municipalities. I also support a Safe Consumption site, but it must be funded properly to provide harm reduction not only to clients but also to the immediate neighborhood. I have spoken about, and encouraged the installation of needle drop boxes in the City. I have also spoken about the need for prevention, education in schools, sufficient detox and treatment programs at many meetings that included elected officials from the Province. I have supported events by attending the AGMs for AVI, VARCS and Solid through the years. I have attended the AIDS Walk many times and personally, and through my organization The Victoria Chinatown Lioness, have made donations to both AVI and VARCS to assist with their work. I also support wet housing for Greater Victoria. Once again, I have continued to educate myself on the issues so that I can best support and advocate on improving harm reduction services for the region.
I would like VIHA to work with municipalities to bring forward more harm reduction services, and do consultation with neighborhoods and provide sufficient ongoing funding to ensure successful results.
Mr. John Turner: I strongly believe in “harm elimination” and as a street counsellor I have helped more than 40 people to overcome their issues, quit their addictions, find sustainable housing and go through the stages of education, volunteerism, internships and eventually to find work. This being said, harm reduction has to be developed in such a way that it is not only personal harm reduction, but harm reduction within the entire community, which includes developing personal and community prosperity and healing.
I am the chief advisor on developing The Jabez Series social rehabilitation and Hotel Richminster Community Housing Co-operative internationally. These strategies encompass social rehabilitation, community education-housing-volunteerism-internships-entrepreneurialism-commerce, tax decrements for community sponsors (i.e. tax decrements for people who own a home and decrease their rent for our community volunteers or provide donations of food, etc for our “Community Employees).
Mr. Jon Valentine: Haven’t read the report, but some friends of mine are involved with harm reduction in Victoria. It’s important to have harm reduction as an option for those who may not be able to manage/remove their addictions through conventional channels. Also, most studies that I’ve heard of support its effective use in health issues. A fully-supported harm reduction plan should have in its plan the means to manage drug waste. I wouldn’t vote for such a resolution any other way.
Mr. Geoff Young: Implementing an effective and sustainable harm reduction policy will require the efforts of all levels of government. We need to ensure there are resources for treatment and we will require the support of the Province. I will work with other municipalities to bring a regional ask to the Provincial government to provide the necessary support
2. What will you do to create and implement a new regional affordable housing levy?
Mr. Paul Brown: I have long believed that the City of Victoria has carried an unfair burden for this file and that surrounding municipalities need to step up to the plate. This is a regional issue that requires a regional solution and funding. I will leverage the need of surrounding municipalities to engage the City of Victoria to help them deal with their regional issues (eg outlying transportation issues, such as the Colwood Crawl) by demanding they deal with and contribute to the City of Victoria’s regional issues, including homelessness.
Mr. Steve Filipovic: I have been introduced to the idea of a .7 % accommodation tax on Hotels in the Victoria Area. This would generate a substantial amount of revenue we could put toward housing. This would greatly increase the hotel customer’s satisfaction as our streets would begin to have much less poverty on them. A real win-win situation, the small tax would hardly be noticed by the tourists but the results of this investment potential would be quite visible to everyone.
Mayor Dean Fortin: The levy model has worked in other areas – most notably in parks acquisition. Because of the collective park fund we have been able to buy and protect vital tracts of land for future generations all across the region. I believe the same model would work for meeting our housing needs.
Poverty and homelessness are not bound by municipal lines. In partnership with the Coalition to End Homelessness we have made significant progress, but if we are going to continue to build on that momentum we need regional commitment.
The establishment of a levy is an important step for the CRD – and one I fully support and will advocate for at the CRD table. We have been talking about this option for some time and I believe there is support for establishing a levy – now we need to act.
Ms. Marianne Alto: As a candidate for CRD Director, as well as Victoria City Council, if elected I will have the ability to advocate at both tables for the adoption of a new levy that is sufficient to enable the building of more affordable rental housing, including a range of supportive housing and below and- at-market rental housing. As a facilitator by trade, I believe I can bring municipalities, authorities, agencies and other decision-makers together to appreciate the local and regional benefits that will accrue from a regionally coordinated levy.
Mr. Chris Coleman: This is an issue that needs a champion at the CRD table (and, therefore is one of the reasons that you need to consider who you choose for your CRD votes). I have long suggested that we need to develop the same regional funding model that Calgary’s Coalition to End Homelessness has developed, and base it on a regional Housing levy that is matched by the Province & the Federal Government.
There is also the need, however, to address this issue well beyond the Capital Region. We must advocate at the federal level for a National Housing Strategy; this should be done through the advocacy work of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Ms. Shellie Gudgeon: Housing first works. In addition to the current CRD regional household levy, I believe that we should look to other jurisdictions to ascertain what other localized levy initiatives have proven viable. Affordable housing is not just for the very poor. Workers in the retail and service industry need affordable accommodation close to work. Developers need to be encouraged to promote a component of low cost housing within the framework of their projects utilizing both incentives and project levies to accomplish this end. I will persistently encourage discussion regarding levies at Victoria City Council and with City Staff and will continue to do so until decisions are made.
Ms. Lisa Helps: Again, as above [Question 1], collaboration is key to making this happen. I am good at this. In addition, through my work as Executive Director of Community Micro Lending I am working as part of a steering committee loosely called the “Doing It Better Together” collective. This collective is working together to draft a Poverty Reduction Charter and Action Plan for the region. Affordable housing is a critical part of this. The idea with the Charter is to have organizations and municipalities sign on to it, as a commitment to making it happen. We can certainly incorporate a regional affordable housing levy as one of the housing strategies in this document.
Ms. Rose Henry: I am not going to pretend that I totally understand this question but how I respond to this is like most other ways I would respond to any other question that I don’t know the answers to and that is that I am willing to listen to the community and to respond to each neighborhood when I get the chance. I will listen to the community first and advocate for them to the best of my ability.
Ms. Lynn Hunter: I am running to be a director of CRD as well as a city councillor. I believe I have a solid reputation at the CRD table and will use that reputation to push for a regional affordable housing levy.
Mr. Ben Isitt: I will move a resolution at Victoria City Council by January 2012 endorsing the creation of a new Capital Region Housing Levy, initially valued at $25 per household per year. I will then lobby elected officials in the other 13 CRD municipalities to ensure passage of similar motions at the municipal level. Finally, in my capacity as CRD Director for Victoria, I will move a resolution at the CRD Board directing staff to implement the Housing Levy without delay, either through referendum approval or simple Board resolution with funds generated no later than the 2013 tax year. The levy would create a seed fund of more than $4-million annually from the 165,000 households in the region, providing resources to mobilize capital funds for new non-market housing construction from senior partners including BC Housing and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
Mr. Robin Kimpton: Explore alternatives such as incentives for the private sector in order to promote the creation of more safe rental housing rather than more condo development.
Mr. Philippe Lucas: I’ve been researching and promoting a Seattle-style annual housing levy for the region since 2005, and it’s apparent from public polling and discussion with other regional politicians that many would support such a levy. In spring of 2011 I even drafted a motion for the CRD to have staff develop such a levy for consideration by the CRD board; my hope was that it could have been put before voters during this year’s municipal election, thus saving on the cost of holding a stand-alone referendum. At the time I was told that the CRD was working on a new funding strategy for the Coalition/Housing Trust that might include regional levy, and that the motion should be pulled pending the outcome of this work. At a CRD Board meeting in September I asked staff if they were doing any work on developing a levy, and was told that they weren’t, and that the Housing Trust was satisfied with the current regional funding arrangement. As Vice-President of the CRD Housing Corporation, I can assure you that we’re not satisfied with the current funding levels for the creation of affordable and/or subsidized housing, and in subsequent conversations with Housing Coalition partners it is apparent that consistent, predictable funding is still a huge issue to addressing homelessness in our region. As such, if I’m re-elected to council and the CRD, I will request to be one of Victoria’s representatives on the Coalition and will do whatever work is necessary to get the CRD to finally put a levy by-law before the region’s voters.
Mr. John Luton: I am seeking a seat on the CRD as well as a second term on council. I expect to work at the regional level to establish a levy similar to that already in place for regional parks and can also work with council colleagues and other regional councillors and directors to pass municipal resolutions requesting that the CRD establish a levy and secure community support through referendum.
Ms. Pamela Madoff: If I am elected to the CRD Board this is an area that I am particularly interested in becoming involved with. A regional strategy for parks acquisition has been very successful. One of the unintended positive consequences of this policy is that it has helped to break down municipal boundaries. Although, for example, parkland has not been created in the city of Victoria, we have been extremely supportive of the parks that have been created in the region. I believe that this same philosophy can be successfully applied to the creation of affordable housing.
Ms. Linda McGrew: Affordable housing is an extremely important issue in Victoria. 70% of Victorian’s rent, and they make on average $10,000 less than the regional average. I would vote in favor of maintaining the current CRD affordable housing levy, as I believe it is working well and $6.50 per household is a reasonable amount to ask home owners to pay.
Mr. Sean Murray: To be honest I would not impose a levy on anyone for this purpose, I feel the best way to solve the homeless problem is to reduce immigration because immigration puts a lot of pressure on the low host housing market.
Ms. Charlayne Thornton-Joe: Even before the housing levy was first discussed, I realized that to solve many of the issues of homelessness, mental illness and addiction, there needed to be more education to the general public and that it had to be recognized as something that could affect all of us and that it something that we ALL must work to solve. When MP Libby Davies came to the Downtown Service Providers in 2009 to speak about Bill C-304, a National Housing Strategy, for the next year I spoke publicly about the need for this to many groups and asked and received supporting letters for Bill C-304 from the Downtown Residents Association, the Municipalities of North Saanich, Sidney, Victoria and Esquimalt, the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, Tourism Victoria, the CRD Board, the CRD Housing Corporation, the Victoria Police Department and the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.
I support and have spoken about the need to create and implement a new regional affordable housing levy with many of the CRD Board members. The difficulty with this, is that we also need to leverage that funding with additional funding from the Province and the Federal Government. Therefore, I think that it is important that we continue to work towards the adoption of a National Housing Strategy and funds to support the objectives of such a strategy. Also, once again, educating all the municipalities of the importance of affordable housing is needed to ensure that municipalities do not decide to either vote against such a levy or decide to opt out of the current CRD Housing Trust Fund.
Mr. John Turner: Needless to say, as an international socio-economic development researcher over the last 14 years these issues are close to my heart. Municipal and provincial tax decreases will be given to land owners who give our community volunteers and employees a discounted tax that falls within provincial and federal rental portions of their social service checks, and donors of food or other goods will receive charitable tax receipting. We will create a Community Housing and Community Services Administration that will oversee the quality of housing and client services.
Mr. Jon Valentine: Maybe a levy for condominium developers of Victoria properties? Other than that, it’s the public’s call on how fired up they want to get, in order to do something about our housing shortage.
Mr. Geoff Young: CRD residents can consider themselves fortunate that there is now a regional housing levy that brings in almost $900,000 per year. That money has been and is being disbursed to assist many affordable housing projects, both in Victoria and throughout the region. The fund currently contains about $860,000. It is true that a couple of municipalities do not contribute to the fund, preferring to operate their own programs, and it would of course be preferable if all contributed, but attempts to require obligatory participation might politicize what has been a well supported program.
3. What municipal incentives will you introduce or champion to build new or renovated below-market rental housing?
Mr. Paul Brown: I will employ city bylaws, policies and approvals to encourage the development and establishment of affordable rental housing for both singles and families. For example, I will waive parking requirements in return for affordable housing, on both rental and sale properties. I will work with the owners of existing low-cost accommodation to ensure that the current supply of this type of accommodation is not eroded any further.
Mr. Steve Filipovic: I have been campaigning to grow the political will to win Co-operative housing and more rent to own options for working people in Victoria. This should start to take the demand off of our rental stock which should lower the price of rental accommodations. I would also invest with the non-profit housing groups in Victoria that already do so much for affordable housing, we still need so much more.
Mayor Dean Fortin: As Mayor of Victoria for the last three years I have made housing a key priority. With my team on council we have been working diligently to address housing options right cross the spectrum of housing need – from emergency shelter beds, to supportive housing units, and affordable family housing.
We also brought in the legalization of secondary suites and created policy to guide the introduction of garden suites, both of which traditionally rent for below market value; and offer neighbourhood focused housing. We have also actively secured housing covenants to protect existing rental housing, and through our Housing Trust Fund have invested in many housing projects to ensure their success.
In total the City of Victoria has helped create over 780 new housing options.
Together we have made significant progress, and I remain committed to building on this momentum.
Further, I have introduced a Short Term Incentive for Rental (STIR) program, so the city can offer incentives that will foster more market rental. It is my belief that increased rental options, even market rental, helps bring rents down across the board helping ease the cost of living challenges our community faces.
Ms. Marianne Alto: Developers need a reason to build rental housing. I want to implement programs to reward new construction for rental housing (so-called STIR or short term incentives for rental housing), and explore options to encourage and enable both co-operative and co-housing projects. I will also push the provincial government and its housing authority to increase its rent subsidies for people on income assistance.
Mr. Chris Coleman: The City of Victoria has been quite active, and pretty creative in this area already: secondary suite legislation in place; the embracing of “garden suite” policies; the municipal purchase of some hotel stock for the retention of (or conversion to) low-end market, or even below market units.
I do think there is an opportunity to put greater emphasis on developments to include components of smaller, adaptable units; to not allow stratas to set rental exclusions; to allow more parking variances reducing the amount of parking required; and to find more rent sups.
Ms. Shellie Gudgeon: Developers should be encouraged to include a component of low cost rental housing within their mixed-use projects. Incentives similar to existing heritage incentives should be crafted to assist in this goal. Inclusionary housing policy models need to be adopted at the City of Victoria. I agree that establishing working partnerships with property managers and owners is critical for maximizing access to low cost housing options. It is imperative that all of our neighbourhoods work together as a community to maximize housing throughout the City of Victoria and to encourage the neighbouring municipalities to participate.
Ms. Lisa Helps: As chair of the board of Fernwood NRG I was responsible for helping to build ten 3-bedroom family units of market-based affordable housing (85% of market). I did everything from swing a hammer, to move a development variance permit through City Hall to create tenant selection criteria and select families to move in. That is to say I have on the ground experience in building housing and I know what it takes to get it done. In addition, my Ph.D. research (funded by the Trudeau Foundation) is on the history of housing and poverty in Victoria; I bring historical knowledge and the critical analytical skills of an academic to the table. Having said all of this, I’ll champion Community Economic Development Investment funds already working in Nova Scotia. These are pools of local community capital used to build affordable housing at the same time as providing a small return to investors. I’m working with the Community Social Planning Council on this already. More details here: http://www.lisahelpsvictoria.ca/platform.html#security
Ms. Rose Henry: I like what the city of Langford has done around building housing and ensuring that one in every twenty houses in sold at or near cost to its residents who have resided in their community for a minimum of two years and able to provide proof of income etc. I think this is something Victoria could accomplish as a positive asset to enhance not only their image but also the quality of life for its residents.
Ms. Lynn Hunter: I am proud to be part of a council which has worked effectively over the past 3 years to create 782 new low cost housing units. This was done through direct grants, incentives to build secondary suites and the creation of the garden suite program. In the coming term we have plans to introduce STIR (short term incentives for rental) grants as an additional tool for developers to build rental housing.
Mr. Ben Isitt: I will propose that Victoria City Council adopt a policy requiring all new residential construction to make allowance for below-market housing should the owner request a zoning variance from the city. This allowance would take the form of dedicated non-market units in larger buildings (administered by non-profit entities such as Pacifica, Cool Aid, and CRD Housing) or alternately contributions to the Victoria Affordable Housing Trust Fund for smaller-budget projects where a dedicated non-market unit is not feasible (for example, in duplexes and triplexes), with the financial contribution calculated as a percentage of total project cost.
Mr. Robin Kimpton: Promote a deeper more co-operative relationship between the municipality and the private sector in order to move forward with renovations to existing suites and buildings with the goal of creating a more efficient use of the space and create safe secure dwellings that could be rented SUSTAINABLY at below market rates.
I feel that more needs to be done in Victoria to reach out to private sector investors who would engage in the creation of various forms of rental housing and work with the city to make a more efficient use of the space.
Mr. Philippe Lucas: I have long been a homelessness and anti-poverty activist, and have championed the need for new below-market housing through Council and in my role as Vice-President of the CRD Housing Corporation. I have supported the city’s financial incentives for the creation of new or renovated affordable rental housing, and the legalization of basement and garden suites. Additionally, I was a vocal proponent and advocate for the city’s purchase of former Travellers Inn hotels to convert to low-cost housing, and am encouraged by city plans to bring aspects of Vancouver’s successful STIR (Short Term Incentives for Rental) program to Victoria in order to spur the development of more rental housing in the city.
Mr. John Luton: Victoria has leveraged a number of innovative housing initiatives with the support of a progressive majority on council. We have supported both market and below market rental developments and other housing choices. Soon after the last election I went to Vancouver to meet and discuss program responses with counterparts in Vancouver and North Vancouver and returned with some approaches already in place on the lower mainland. I helped then to champion the purchase of housing as an option to provide affordable housing units as a municipal initiative, something that North Vancouver had already begun with some projects. That concept helped inform our eventual purchase of Traveler’s Inn purchases that have provided us with some modest increases in the supply of subsidized and supportive housing for the hard to house. We are now exploring Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing, a policy that has the potential to create new rental housing stock that will reduce costs by providing significant tax holidays that can make some rentals more affordable. I am also promoting car-free and car-light housing options with the development industry and within the city to further provide lower cost housing by reducing development costs ($50k or more of multi-unit residential building costs are invested in underground parking) and providing more affordable options for the 22% of Victoria households that do not own vehicles. I continue to support our efforts also with both federal and provincial funders to create more units and more diversity in housing options to increase the availability of market, affordable and subsidized housing in the city.
Ms. Pamela Madoff: As a member of Victoria City Council I have supported numerous initiatives to create housing initiatives. The municipality can champion new or renovated below-market rental housing by being a catalyst in seeking out and focusing on partnership opportunities. Potential partners include non-profit housing providers and the provincial and federal governments. We must continue to lobby for and encourage a national housing strategy but, in its absence, we must build on past successes and the relationships that were developed in order for the projects to be completed.
Ms. Linda McGrew: As far as creating more affordable housing, municipal governments can do two major things:
- Vote on specific land use changes or developments to allow for higher density or changes in zoning such that affordable housing can be made more readily available near the city (and people won’t need cars) and parking lots or under used lands can be turned into apartment buildings.
- Give grants to non-profits, developers willing to build such housing, or new buyers entering the market, so as to promote more options for affordable housing.
We need to be more relaxed when it comes to parking spaces, which will help with adding density without adding height; I would like to see more co-operative housing, such as those found in James Bay supported; I would also like to see portions of new developments be allotted to affordable housing, which would involve local first time buyer grants or grants for young families with skills, moving to Victoria.
I do not support the city purchasing old hotels and trying to fix them up, without any experience of how to do that or how much it will cost, while at the same time not allowing developers with experience in such matters to do the same.
Mr. Sean Murray: I would give a property tax break to those who build inexpensive rental apartments.
Ms. Charlayne Thornton-Joe: See the above answer [Question 2]. Also, as a member of Council already, I have supported policies on secondary suites and garden suites. I also supported the purchase of the two Travellers Inn for supportive housing. The present Council has also made the issue of homelessness and affordable housing a key issue for our strategic plan. We have also asked staff to expedite any development plans that included either below market or supportive housing. As a director and Past President of the CRD Housing Corporation we have been looking for more ways to provide below-market or rent geared to income housing. However, although welcoming all initiatives to provide below-market rental housing, neighbourhood plans and planning policies still need to be considered in the decision making.
Mr. John Turner: Tax Decrements (municipal and provincial), Tax receipting (federal), Community Investments and High Yield returns on community banking options (to be developed). Please refer to our community developments platform introducing the development of a socio-economic development and revitalization infrastructure to provide community transportation and philanthropically fund the development of about 600 community housing facilities within 3 years, and grow to about 900 facilities within 6 years.—-I have developed a 9-+ stage “Societal Enhancements synopsis” and Socio-Economic Revitalization and development plan consisting of somewhere near 900 pages specific to the development of The CRD and applicable to resolving international issues. Many areas of this are pertinent to what we are collectively undertaking to do (I am counting on your support in our humanitarian causes.)
Mr. Jon Valentine: Maybe in exchange for not building upscale quarters, but decent-scale livingspace, that the option exists for low/middle incomers to rent-to-own? Other than that, I’d be at least one vote every time for not approving expensive housing at the expense of those who really need a home, and aren’t really choosy.
Mr. Geoff Young: Once again I would stress the need for a regional approach to this issue. Currently about 70 percent of the housing stock in the City of Victoria is rental stock, and we have invested significant money, in addition to our contribution to the Housing Trust Fund, to creating below market rentals in the City. There is a need for affordable Housing throughout the Region. I will continue my work at the Regional level to bring other municipalities on board and to work to ensure the other supports such as accessible and affordable regional transit are also in place to support affordable housing development throughout the region.
4. We know that in March 2010, 21,180 people used food banks in Greater Victoria; 13.7% reported employment income; 22.4% were children. What will you do at the municipal level to support access to healthy and affordable food?
Mr. Paul Brown: There are many food banks being operated in the City of Victoria, most by faith communities. These charitable services have, unfortunately, moved from being an emergency response to a short-term recession, to the point where they are now an essential part of our social support system. Currently however, there is little co-ordination among them with respect to days and hours of operation, or the type and amount of food available. As Mayor, I will work with the providers to develop a coordinated distribution system and a consistent supply of locally-sourced, healthy food for those in need.
Mr. Steve Filipovic: I would work toward more local and organic food production. Helping people connect with land to grow food on. We could also transition more of the city’s gardens to growing of food instead of flowers. I would also invite more small businesses to compete for the jobs that the city tenders out, as they do the lions share of job creation and create more taxable benefits. This will help by increasing the prospects of employment in our region and add to the vitality of our local economy.
Mayor Dean Fortin: While we might be making gains in reducing street homelessness, there is growing poverty in our community. Food bank usage is one indicator of this.
One way the city supports the food bank, as well as other important non-profit agencies, is by offering tax exemptions – meaning they do not pay property taxes to the city. This saves agencies often tens of thousands of dollars a year. I am committed to seeing this exemption program for non-profits continue.
We also have a responsibility to support those members of our community who are accessing services like the food bank. Investing in housing is important, and so is our commitment to pubic transit. I also believe that economic development is key – we need to make sure our economy is healthy and creating household sustaining jobs.
I would also suggest that food security measures are valuable to mention. Protecting regional farmlands is key, as well supporting community garden projects in our own neighbourhoods.
Ms. Marianne Alto: For those who can afford it, I support the opening of a centrally located public food market that provides fairly priced local food for sale. For those on social service supplements struggling to stretch limited dollars, I’ll push for a change in the amounts paid by provincial programs, including a new program that provides additional vouchers for food. To limit the number of people who must use a food bank, I’ll push for Living Wage commitments wherever the City has authority to do so. For those who have no other choice than a food bank, I’ll explore new programs to partner with food producers and retailers to provide greater volume and variety at food banks.
Mr. Chris Coleman: This is also an incredibly complex issue that, technically sits outside municipal jurisdiction ……..but as it’s a looming crisis on our doorstep, we try to address!
The conundrum is that while we look at longer term strategies, we also see the immediate problem grow, and if we work at addressing the immediate crisis, we seem to lose our focus on the long term goal.
I have been working with the FCM to find an appropriate place for the “Food Sustainability” discussions, and for advocacy at the national level. I believe that the food sustainability solutions are ones that will allow society to slow the growing gap between the “haves” & “have nots”.
I would like to see the City embrace more “allotment garden opportunities” in some neighbourhood Parks; & I would like to find greater supports for “hot breakfast” & “hot lunch” programmes in those schools which need such programmes.
Ms. Shellie Gudgeon: I will continue to support the Mustard Seed, Rainbow Kitchen, the Salvation Army and all food banks. Educating our citizenry through media is critical as a community we can work together to ensure that nobody goes hungry. Victoria has a very generous business community that needs to be informed and engaged. I support and encourage food security programs and community gardens within our city. A dialogue between existing food producers (restaurants, Grocery stores etc.) and local health authorities needs to be encouraged in order to try and find a method by which food that is currently disposed of can be safely incorporated into the supply system.
Ms. Lisa Helps: Food banks are a bandaid solution and if we do our jobs well, food banks will go out of business. Words like “food security” usually bring to mind boulevard gardens and backyard chickens; these are certainly part of the puzzle. But the key to food security is to get healthy, fresh, nutritious food in to the hands of people who need it most AND at the same time, to empower people living in poverty by providing access to land, time, tools, and skills to grow food or to have access to locally grown food if no time/ability to grow it themselves. There are models in other cities where this is working. We have Lifecycles Project Society right here in our region, which is already delivering garden creation and garden education programs. In the 1930s in the last great depression, the City of Victoria gave people who were on ‘relief’ (equivalent of modern day social assistance) food seeds; the City allowed people to garden on city-owned land, and then at the end of each season, the City held gardening contests and awarded cash prizes for the best/most productive food gardens. The City also allowed the planting of potatoes in Beacon Hill Park to feed people living in the orphanage and the old men’s and ladies homes. I’m not suggesting a complete return to this idea; but I am suggesting that the City has a whole bunch of assets that can be better used in the service of the production of fresh local food for people living in poverty. I will identify these assets and work to put them into service.
Ms. Rose Henry: I would encourage more community gardens in public spaces that have been allocated by the community. Because I understand space is at a near extinction for green space in Victoria; I would encourage things like roof top gardens like the one on Wildfire bakery, apartment gardening. If people are able to donate to the food banks I would encourage them to donate things like seeds, fresh fruits, vegetables and meat.
Ms. Lynn Hunter: As a CRD director I will work hard to ensure that farmland is maintained in our region. As a city councillor I will support local individuals and businesses that grow food in our city. I will also continue to support our food banks and the businesses who support them.
Mr. Ben Isitt: The growing gap between rich and poor is a disturbing but reversible trend in a wealthy country such as Canada. Senior governments in recent decades have redistributed wealth in the wrong direction — to individuals and groups who already have the most resources — contributing to growing poverty (and a corresponding lack of access to shelter, food and other necessities of life) and a squeeze on the incomes of working people and middle-income earners. This trend can be reversed through revitalized social programs and an Incomes Policy (including a Guaranteed Livable Income). Such a policy would ideally be spearheaded by a forward-thinking federal government, but in the absence of such leadership from senior government partners the City of Victoria has a role to play. My platform (www.BenIsitt.ca/platform) includes the introduction of a Municipal Living Wage Guideline, which would require the payment of a wage tied to the cost of living on all municipally contracted work, setting an example to the private sector while increasing the incomes of workers employed by firms that do business with the City. Increased incomes will put more money in the pockets of those who need it, helping to alleviate hunger and malnutrition.
Mr. Robin Kimpton: First of all, immediate action needs to be taken to more fully recognize the front line workers and volunteers at the many social agencies that operate in Victoria. A well deserved morale boost could go a long way in the promotion and support of these much needed services.The same could be said of the many private sector donors who choose to support the feeding of so many. While making an extra effort in recognizing these groups and individuals for a job well done- we will in turn encourage others to participate in what is clearly a growing need.
Mr. Philippe Lucas: I am a strong and active supporter of food security, urban agriculture, and local food and farmers. As Chair of the Victoria Downtown Public Market Society, I have offered free tables at our markets and events to the Good Food Box Program and Food Not Bombs. In our vision for the new downtown public market in Victoria, we are considering the incorporation of a Quest-style food exchange program (www.questoutreach.org), which would limit the daily waste of food generated by restaurants and retailers by quickly and efficiently making it available to low income families and individuals. Additionally, I was the main actor on council in the creation of the Small Steps Edible Landscape Garden outside the Pandora entrance to City Hall. This small urban garden encourages residents to put in similar edible landscapes in their own backyards or neighbourhoods, and over the last two years this garden has provided over 100 lbs of fresh greens to the Our Place Kitchen. As such, we (with the help of community volunteers and LifeCycles) are growing safe and healthy food downtown for the folks in our city who are living on these same streets. Lastly, last week I passed a motion at council that may lead to a by-law that would allow the raising of miniature goats in Victoria (like Seattle and Portland) for milk and cheese production, thus improving our city’s potential for local food production and overall food security.
Mr. John Luton: Victoria has limited options to support local food security but can be a positive force at the regional level to stand firm against the alienation of farmland that provides some of our local food sources. We have also been relaxing restrictions on urban farming options (permitting chickens, honey bees and looking at other potential opportunities for small scale urban farming to take place). I also support, through our boulevard review project, the conversion of some of our city boulevard space into food gardens for neighbourhood residents, as well as the use of some of our park and greenspaces for local neighbourhood or allotment garden opportunities.
Ms. Pamela Madoff: Food security and local food production may play a small, but meaningful role, in terms of providing access to healthy and affordable food. One way in which the city supports food banks, in a significant but likely quite invisible manner, is through the forgiveness of property taxes for non-profit agencies. The ability to put food on the table is closely linked with the need to have a roof over your head. The City must continue to build on its past successes in creating partnerships which result in the creation of affordable housing.
Ms. Linda McGrew: Supporting non profits such as the mustard seed through tax exemptions and grants are two great ways to support those who already do great things in our community and provide food to those in need. Developing better relationships with provincial and federal governments, who have funds set aside to help families in the province and nation in need would also help Victoria to build a better future for those who use food banks and need temporary shelter or aid. On a personal note, I volunteer with food banks often and have been with my grandparents since I was very young. I will also continue to do this.
Mr. Sean Murray: I would not impose a tax but would donate money out of my own pocket to Our Place.
Ms. Charlayne Thornton-Joe: I am a strong believer that the principles and values that I have as a person, I bring to the table as an elected official. As an individual, I grow vegetables and fruit and give away much to friends and family. Individually and through the organization, the Victoria Chinatown Lioness, we support local food banks several times a year. To answer this question we have to address the Victoria Vital Signs evidence that we need to do better at providing affordable housing (see above answer). We also need to provide and support an increase in minimum wage. The Vital Signs report states that “in 2011, a two parent family with two children needed to work a combined 70 hour work week earning $18.03 an hour, or $65,620 annually to afford an adequate standard of living in our Capital Region.” We need to support more jobs being created in our region (such as the recent ship building announcement). I also support the increase of community gardens in all our neighbourhoods and would like to work with our planning department to see how we can create policies such as in Vancouver to encourage more community gardens in our Downtown.
Mr. John Turner: Esquimalt Harbour Seabus LTD. will be phase one transportation alternatives, and provide funding of about $10,000 per day to go into community developments and community employment. The Mustard Seed and Salvation Army will be the major charities involved in resourcing highly discounted food and offering this food for “provisional waging” to our “community volunteers and community employees”. We will also develop a “community kitchen” in our community hall and “community services houses” in our neighbourhoods that will provide community kitchens for discounted and healthy foods.
Mr. Jon Valentine: I’d start by supporting community gardens in residential areas, schools and community centres more (some, but not all already have these initiatives). There are many food collectives here that I’m sure would be willing to help teach and support such efforts.
Mr. Geoff Young: The best long term approach is to ensure that the region has a healthy economy that offers good long term employment creating the incomes that will allow people to provide themselves and their family with healthy food. My father’s family farmed in the Saanich peninsula when local food was a vital part of our economy and well-being, and I believe we must maintain local agricultural land for the future.