Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Metro Vancouver Council of Councils: Climate Change, Waste Management, Affordable Housing, and Transit.

Two times a year, the Metro Vancouver Regional District hosts Council of Councils meetings. Each municipality in our region has a few members of their council who also serve as directors on the Metro Vancouver Board. These Council of Councils meetings provide an opportunity for all elected local government members to get direct updates from the district, ask questions, and hopefully receive answers. I was at the most recent Council of Councils meeting on Saturday.

Metro Vancouver Council of Councils meeting. Select image to enlarge.

The meeting opened with an update from the regional district chair Greg Moore. Due to the recent media attention around the regional district, Moore provided “fact checks” to some of the stories that have been circulating. The one fact that stood out to me was that the Metro Vancouver Cafeteria is not subsidized, it makes a profit.

The first update at the Council of Councils meeting was about the Climate 2050 Strategy. Climate change will have serious impacts in our region. Over the past decade, GHG emissions have stabilized in Metro Vancouver. This is good news, as both the population and economy have grown. This is not enough though, emissions need to go down. Metro Vancouver is starting the next phase of its climate strategy, and will be working with the public and stakeholders to develop a plan to further reduce GHG emissions in our region.

Impacts of climate change in Metro Vancouver by 2050. Select image to enlarge. 

The North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant is one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken by the regional district at $700 million. The new plant will provide secondary sewage treatment for North Shore communities as required by federal regulations which come into force at the end of 2020. One of the interesting features of the treatment plant is that it will also include a district energy component, so that heat from wastewater can be productively used. This is similar to the district energy system in the Olympic Village area in Vancouver. More information on the treatment plant is available on the project’s website.

One of the region’s goals is to divert 80% of all discarded material from ending up as waste, either in a landfill or incinerated, by 2020. As of 2016, 62% of solid waste is diverted. Metro Vancouver continues to make progress on increasing the diversions rate. As of July, polystyrene (foam) packaging will be banned from garbage.

There are many materials banned from garbage in our region. One of the ways that some people are getting away with having banned materials in garbage is to ship garbage outside of the region for processing. Metro Vancouver has introduced a new Generator Levy and Commercial Waste Haulers Licensing System to better ensure that solid waste is handed within our region’s systems.

Single-use containers such as coffee cups are becoming a significant solid waste issue. The regional district is currently working on options for dealing with these single-use items. These options will be presented this winter to the Metro Vancouver board for consideration.

Metro Vancouver is a public housing provider, focusing on housing for families with low to moderate incomes. There are about 9,000 people living in Metro Vancouver managed housing, making it the second largest subsidized housing provider, after BC Housing, in our region. With the recently announced provincial and federal housing programs, Metro Vancouver’s housing corporation is positioning itself as a manager of affordable housing on behalf of municipalities in our region. Municipalities can require affordable housing as part of redevelopment proposals. Once that affordable housing is built, it could be handed over to Metro Vancouver Housing for management.

On the topic of affordability, transportation and housing costs must be considered together. One of the big pushes in our region is to provide affordable rental housing near frequent transit such as B-Lines and SkyTrain. Metro Vancouver has been providing advocacy support by creating things such as the Regional Affordable Housing Strategy. The provincial government is in the process of creating rental-only zoning which should further help support creating affordable rental housing near transit. At the meeting, it was noted that Coquitlam has been successful in building rental housing near public transit.

There was also an update from TransLink at the meeting, focusing on recently funded phase two projects.

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