Thursday, May 26, 2016

Listen to the panel discussion on commuting in Metro Vancouver

This morning, I was on a panel on Roundhouse Radio with Mario Canseco from Insights West and Gordon Price from the SFU City Program. We were talking about commuting in Metro Vancouver, and Insights West’s research that found people in Metro Vancouver are generally happy with their commute.

Is your commute pleasant or annoying in Metro Vancouver? Select graph to see the results.

According to Mario, and not surprising, people with shorter commutes are happier than people with longer commutes. It was also no surprise that people who take transit don’t mind longer commutes as much as people who drive. The Insights West research is validated by surveys done in the past by Statistics Canada.

On the panel, we also talked about what needs to be done in Metro Vancouver to ensure that people’s experience of commuting within Metro Vancouver doesn’t degrade.

We were all asked if we thought that commuting in Metro Vancouver has become better or worse than a decade ago. We all thought that it has become better, with some caveats.

You can listen to the full panel discussion at the Roundhouse Radio website.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Addressing affordable housing in Metro Vancouver

Over the last year, people in Metro Vancouver have become increasingly concerned that they are being priced out of housing, and have been calling on all orders of government to make housing more affordable.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report last Wednesday that outlines their solutions for government that will create and maintain affordable housing within Metro Vancouver. Their five-point plan is below.

  1. Build new affordable housing stock
    A $1.25 to $2.5 billion per year housing program funded by the provincial and federal governments to build up to 10,000 new units of affordable housing per year. Currently in Metro Vancouver, there are 3,000 people experiencing homelessness and 145,000 households in “core housing need” (spend 30% or more of household pre-tax income on housing.)
  2. Preserve and re-invest in existing affordable housing
    The federal government must renew the current annual $200 million province-wide subsidies for affordable housing, and invest an additional $190 million to $380 million to get the current affordable housing stock into a state of good repair.
  3. Create inclusive housing in complete communities
    Push for gentler forms of density in the region such as duplexes, triplexes, laneway houses, rowhouses, and up to mid-size apartment buildings. Discourage single-family housing development. Also ensure that 20-30% of newly constructed units are affordable.
  4. Put the brakes on absentee ownership and speculative investment
    Update BC’s property transfer tax to have a more progressive rate structure, and introduce differential tax rates for the sale of housing to non-BC resident buyers and/or purchasers of non-principal residences.
  5. Make property taxes fair
    Shift to a progressive property tax system that places a surtax on high-value housing. Revenue generated could be reinvested into affordable housing programs.

It should come as no surprise that both the federal and provincial governments will need to be the champions when it comes to reforming our propriety tax system and funding the construction of affordable housing.

For local governments, we can ensure that our zoning bylaws and development policies include provisions that support inclusive housing, and support a variety of housing types. For non-single family housing, we need to ensure that their is enough housing supply.

In Langley City, it will be critically important to work with other orders of government to ensure that the current number of affordable rental units are maintained, and brought into a state of good repair.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

TransLink has contributed half a billion to road maintenance in Metro Vancouver

While TransLink is best known for the transit service it provides, and for the bridges that it owns and maintains such as the Golden Ears Bridge and the Pattullo Bridge, TransLink also is jointly responsible for maintaining 600 kilometres of roads throughout the region.

As you can see on the following map, TransLink jointly maintains a larger road network than the provincial government within Metro Vancouver. TransLink contributes $19,810 per lane kilometre for operation, maintenance and pavement rehabilitation to municipalities who have roads in the major road network. This amount in inflation adjusted each year.
Map of road network in Metro Vancouver. Major road network in blue, provincial roads in red. Select map to enlarge.

When a road is in the major road network it must be a truck route, and a municipality cannot reduce the people handling capacity of the road.

TransLink has contributed more than $500 million to maintain the major road network since 1999. In 2016, TransLink is contributing $38.5 million to the operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation of the major road network. About a third of that flows back into the South of Fraser. The following list shows the funding for South of Fraser municipalities:

Delta: $2.4 million
Langley City: $528,500
Langley Township: $2.9 million
Surrey: $6.8 million
White Rock: $67,000

In addition to helping keep the major road network in a state of good repair, TransLink also provides 50% funding for eligible costs of larger capital projects that enhance the major road network, or improve cycling infrastructure throughout the region. In 2016, TransLink is investing $9.8 million for these capital projects. Some South of Fraser projects include:

Ladner Trunk Road and 72 Street Intersection Improvements: $96,900
203 Street Protected Bike Lanes: $171,500
Fraser Highway Widening in Langley Township: $720,000
New Bikeways within Brookswood and Fernridge in Langley: $80,000
King George Boulevard Widening: $2.4 million
Fraser Heights Greenway in Surrey: $402,900

Thursday, May 19, 2016

100 ways to say no: provincial government responds to UBCM resolutions

Every fall, local government politicians throughout the province attend the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) annual conference. One of the key outcomes of the conference is the adoption of resolutions which get forwarded to the province for consideration.

As I posted about last fall, these resolutions give some insight into the challenges faced by local governments throughout the province. The provincial government reviews the resolutions, and provides its comments back to local governments. The responses for the 2015 resolutions were recently released.

Resolutions are grouped into two main categories. “A” resolutions address priority issues that are relevant to all local governments throughout the province. “B” resolutions are general resolutions. At the 2015 UBCM conference, five priority resolutions and around 100 general resolutions were adopted.

I read over many of the provincial responses. It is really interesting to see how many ways the provincial government can basically say, “We hear you, but we are not going to change our direction.” For example, just look at the responses for the five priority resolutions.

The first priority UBCM resolution called for the provincial government to dedicate 60% of the infrastructure funding it receives from the federal government’s Build Canada Fund to be allocated to local government. Right now, the province allocates 40%. The response from the province, “BC’s focus is on investments, which could include local government initiatives, which facilitate job creation and economic growth.”

The second priority resolution called on the provincial government to develop a long-term, multi-faceted strategy to help people suffering from mental health and addiction issues, and increase funding to mental health and addiction services throughout the province.

The provincial response was that it adopted the “Improving Health Service for Individuals with Severe Addiction and Mental Illness” in 2013, and since that time has allocated $20.25 million to health authorities to expand service based on their action plan.

The third priority resolution requested that the province not download the cost and responsibility onto regional districts to enforce the provincial Fire Services Act in unincorporated areas. The provincial response is “the province is committed to ensuring that public safety is addressed across BC, including the issue of compliance monitoring. The province will continue to consult with stakeholders as the process continues.”

The fourth priority resolution asked that both the provincial and federal governments expand the scope of current oil, and hazardous and noxious substance emergency response plans to include all impacts and consequences for local communities. The provincial government replied that “on June 15, 2015 the Ministry announced plans to implement a world-leading land-based spill regime by February 2017. Many of the new requirements would ensure that local governments are supported in preparedness, response and recovery for spill events.”

The final priority resolution called for an Environmental Bill of Rights which “recognizes the right of every resident to live in a healthy environment, including the right to clean air, clean water, clean food and vibrant ecosystems.” What does the province think? “An environmental bill of rights is not needed in BC because the province’s existing and continually evolving environmental and natural resource regulatory regimes protect the public interest.”

While the resolutions passed at UBCM show what issues are important to local governments, the provincial government rarely acts on the adopted resolutions.