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NDP Housing Bills Sideline Citizens and Local Councils

The provincial government is rushing to take over municipal planning throughout B.C., eliminating the long-standing function of municipal councils  –  and the right of residents to be heard about changes to their communities.

What does this mean for Vancouver?


Bills 44, 46 and 47, introduced in early November and expected to be passed by month’s end, will:

  • Severely restrict or eliminate public hearings

  • Impose out-of-scale densification – towers up to 20 storeys – without provision for adequate infrastructure

  • Result in the destruction of character houses and neighbourhoods in Kitsilano, Mt. Pleasant, Grandview and Strathcona

  • Eliminate heritage protections that limit future development potential

  • Restrict the City’s ability to collect development fees to pay for growth

  • Mandate increased density around bus stops, bus exchanges, passenger rail stations or other transit facilities


Analysts, at least those whose incomes are not dependent on the property development industry, say the changes are being hurried through without meaningful consultation with elected city councils or the residents who will pay the price in livability. They say the lack of detailed information makes potential consequences unknowable, and that undisclosed provincial policy guidelines are a moving target that can be modified at will without consultation or legislative scrutiny.


“Collectively these bills represent provincial overreach of municipal jurisdiction with enormous implications that have not been fully publicly disclosed or understood,” said civic commentator Elizabeth Murphy.


Critics also questioned the role of the real estate development sector in the crafting of the bills because that industry stands to benefit from the sidelining of the public and local councils.


The civic watchdog CityHallWatch said that in overriding local authority, the bills effectively clear municipalities and public out of the way “to allow the real estate, finance, and development industry unbridled access to land for construction.”


Murphy said that so far, the primary input the province has received “appears to be from the development industry.”


When CityHallWatch’s Randy Helten finally received the results of an FOI request about the identities of the experts the province consulted in creating its “naughty” list of under-building municipalities earlier this year, it was revealed that instead of a balanced and diverse group of experts, they turned out to be industry lobbyists, one academic, and a handful of housing activists.  “Presumably, the same experts were also closely involved in providing input on Bills 44, 46, and 47 in Legislature this month,” Helten wrote.


Both Murphy and CityHallWatch urged withdrawal of the bills to allow for proper input from the public and municipalities. “The ideal would be to have the bills withdrawn, and sound long-term policies developed with more balanced input,” said CityHallWatch.


The B.C. Legislature goes back into action November 20, but the bills haven’t passed yet. Citizens can still express their concerns to their local mayor and councillors, as well as to the provincial government.

 

B.C. Minister of Housing ravi.kahlon.MLA@leg.bc.ca

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