Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The number of seniors who live in poverty is increasing, and not where you’d expect

Recently, SPARC BC and the United Way of the Lower Mainland released a report on Seniors’ Poverty in BC. The report found that 8.8% of people over the age of 65 in BC were living under the low-income measure in 2015.

The low-income measure has different values for different household sizes. As an example, a one-person household after-tax income of less than $22,133 would be considered below the low-income measure in 2015. A two-person household would be considered below the low-income measure if they had an after-tax income of less than $31,301.

The report contains maps that show the percentage of seniors who live below the low-income threshold in 2015. The darker the colour, the larger the percentage.

Percent of seniors in low income in Metro Vancouver based on census tracks, 2015. Select map to enlarge.

The largest percentage of seniors who live in poverty also live in the largest communities in Metro Vancouver. In the South of Fraser, 16.5% of seniors in Surrey, 8.9% of seniors in Delta, 5.0% of seniors in Langley, and 4.5% of seniors in White Rock live below the low-income threshold.

Percent of seniors in low income in Langley based on census tracks, 2015. Select image to enlarge.

Langley City has a higher percent of lower-income seniors in the Douglas Neighbourhood. As seen on the following map, 10.2% of seniors in that area are living in poverty. A higher percentage of seniors in Willoughby and Aldergrove live below the low-income measure in 2015 than Langley City.

Housing is considered affordable if people are spending less than 30% of their income on shelter costs which include rent or mortgage, utilities, and property tax. For a single-person household, the total monthly costs could be no higher than $640 per month, or $902.10 per month for a two-person household, to be considered affordable in 2015. Langley City has traditionally had some of the lowest rents in the region. Poverty is exacerbated for people living in an area with higher rents.

As the report used data from 2015, I would image that the number of seniors living in poverty has only increased.

By tackling housing affordability, government can provide relief for low-income seniors. Local government can create rental-only zoning to encourage more rental units to be built in urban cores, near shops, services, and transit.

The provincial government must continue to strengthen the Shelter Aid For Elderly Renters (SAFER) rent-suplement program by creating a more granular and nimble program to ensure that seniors never pay more than 30% of their income for basic accommodation.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Help shape the Fraser Highway One-Way redesign

Fraser Highway was one of the first highways in our region, following the path of the Yale wagon road, connecting New Westminster to the interior of the province. Where the Fraser Highway One-Way begins has always been a significant intersection. It provided a connection to Fort Langley and the Hudson’s Bay Company Farm. All this to says, there are some really old pieces of infrastructure underneath Fraser Highway.

Langley City will be renewing the underground infrastructure such as water and sewer lines on the section of Fraser Highway between 204 Street and 206 Street. Because of the legacy of Fraser Highway, this whole section of road must be dug-up for the renewal. This makes it an ideal time to reimage the One-Way section which is the heart of our community.

The City is currently seeking ideas and feedback on what people would like to see for the new One-Way. At Community Day this weekend, I stopped by a booth that the project team setup to gather people’s thoughts.

People had the chance to indicate what objectives were priorities for them. Select image to enlarge.

One of the ways that the project team gathered input was by asking people to drop marbles into jars for objectives that they would like to see the One-Way redesign achieve. One of the big things that I noticed was that creating a great outdoor space, such as by incorporating room for patios and trees in the public ream, was important for the people who took part in the exercise.

Gather public feedback about the Fraser Highway One-Way redesign at Community Day. Select image to enlarge.

People were also asked to place “leafs” on a tree to let the project team know what they needed to keep in mind. Again, there were many comments about creating a pedestrian-focused, green street that serves as a gather place. Providing a nightlife was also a recurring theme on the “leafs” which is something that we critically need in Downtown. Having more eyes and ears on the street will reduce negative activity in the evening, and help build a stronger sense of community.

Community Day wasn’t the last day to provide input, you can also share your ideas for the One-Way by completing an online survey which will be up until July 16. If you haven’t already, please consider taking some time to complete this survey.

Launch the Survey

As a note, the City is working with BC Hydro to see what would be involved to get the utility poles removed from the One-Way. If all goes well, the project could start construction next year.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

What’s with the grey curb paint? A quick primer

Over the last little while, I’ve had a few inquires about the grey paint that has been showing up on curbs around our community. Today’s post will explain what's going on.

An example of a curb with grey paint. Select image to enlarge. 

Another example of grey paint on a curb. Select image to enlarge.

Up until 2008, Langley City used to put yellow paint on curbs to mark areas where parking was not permitted. The City also used signs to mark no parking and no stopping areas.

Painting curbs does have a cost (around $3,000 per kilometre.) If a no parking area needs to be removed, there is also a removal cost, plus excesses wear on the curb due to the removal process. Signs are more cost effective to install, and easier to move as regulations change.

Langley City council decided in 2008 that it would stop marking no parking areas by putting yellow paint on curbs, opting to exclusively rely on signs. The yellow paint was allowed to wear. Just before I was elected, council decided to reinstate painting yellow curbs in Downtown Langley.

To remove confusion in the rest of the community about yellow curbs, the City investigated various ways to remove the curb paint. Because the old yellow paint contains lead, it is costly to remove as both the environment and people need to be protected during the whole removal process. As a cost-saving experiment, the City has painted grey over some yellow curbs.

While the grey paint is noticeable today, the hope is that it will fade over time, blending in with the curb while still masking the yellow.

You should always follow posted regulation signs. If the posted sign differs from the curb marking, follow the sign. Grey paint does not have any regulatory meaning.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

June 11, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Policing costs, government downloading, and other matters

I posted about land-use matters, and the approval for upgrading Douglas Crescent, which were on the agenda of Monday night’s Langley City council meeting. Today, I’ll be posting about the remaining items covered at that meeting.

Langley City contracts out municipal policing to the RCMP. The Langley RCMP detachment is cost-shared with the Township of Langley. One of the requirements of the contract is to provide approval in principle to RCMP headquarters for the coming year’s policing contract budget which can include changes in headcount. The current plan is to leave the RCMP member headcount the same as this year. Even with no change, this will result in an increase of the RCMP contract budget by $194,489 in 2019. Council supported this approval in principle.

Currently, the Province of BC grants 100% of the traffic fines it collects in Langley City back to the municipality. We use this revenue to help fund the salaries of three RCMP members. The provincial government is looking at amending this grant as it is planning on installing speed enforcement camera at high-risk intersections, and potentially keeping all revenue from those cameras.

Council passed a motioning asking “the Province continue to provide 100% of the traffic fine revenues to municipalities including fines generated by the proposed speed enforcement cameras located at high risk intersections.” If the province does claw-back this grant, it will be yet another example of government downloading with the costs being transfer to your property tax bill.

Council adopted a new “Council Procedure Bylaw.” This bylaw governs council meetings and how members of council can behave at meetings. While most of the changes are housekeeping in nature, the new bylaw explicitly calls out bullying, harassment, negative comments about other people’s character, and generally rude behaviour as grounds for a council member to be asked to leave a meeting.

Council also approved amending the 2017-21 Financial Plan. As another housekeeping matter, once the City receives its audited year-end financial results, it must update the Financial Plan bylaw.

2017-21 Financial Plan amendment. Select table to enlarge.

The Animal Control Bylaw and accompanying section of the municipal fine bylaw know as the Municipal Ticketing Information System Bylaw were giving first, second, and third reading to update wording consistency around having an animal at large. The update also included some minor formatting changes in the fine bylaw.

Council also approved requests from our Fire Chief Rory Thompson to attend the 2018 Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs Annual Conference, and Paul Gilbert who is the Manager of Revenue and Business Systems to attend the Unit4 Business World User Conference.