Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Langley City council meets with provincial ministers to advocate for more supportive services to reduce homelessness, and to create a fairer property tax system

This week, the annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference is taking place at Canada Place in Downtown Vancouver. This conference provides an opportunity for people involved in local government to learn about how other local governments are addressing complex challenges, debate and pass resolutions to forward to the provincial government for consideration, and meet with provincial government ministers and staff.

Every year, Langley City council discusses which ministers we would like to speak with. Once that is decided, we determine who on council will speak with each minister. We tend to split up into smaller cohorts as to not overwhelm provincial ministers.

I was assigned, along with Councillor Rosemary Wallace, Councillor Paul Albrecht, and Francis Cheung who is the Chief Administrative Officer of Langley City to speak with Carole James who is the Minister of Finance and Judy Darcy who is the Minister of Mental Health & Addiction.

As the ministers meet with many people who are elected to, and work in local governments, we got fifteen minutes per meeting.

With Minister Darcy, we commended the province through BC Housing for building 49 units of supportive housing in Langley for people to get off the street and into housing with supports. These supportive services help transition people to independent living over time. We also commended the province through Fraser Health for funding a Langley ICM team which helps people who are living on the streets and who have substance-use issues get stabilized and into housing. Supportive Housing and the ICM team are how we reduce homelessness in Langley.

While the supportive housing facility near the Home Depot on 200th Street isn’t open yet, it will be at capacity when it does. The ICM team is already at capacity. Late last year, council wrote to the Ministry of Health asking for additional resources for the ICM team.

We noted to Minister Darcy that while a new supportive housing facility and current ICM team is a good start, with over 200 people living on the streets in Langley, we will need more resources. Minister Darcy noted that she would “look into it.”

She also noted a new program which will provides a one-time grant of up to $50,000 to fund projects such as needle distribution and recovery programs.

After meeting with Minister Darcy, we met with Minister James about creating two property tax classes: one class for single-family housing and another class for multi-family housing.

Currently, there is only one residential property tax class. This means that even if there is no increase in property tax revenue collected by the City, people will see wild year-over-year swings in their property tax bill due to the different rate of appreciation between multi-family and single-family housing. Minister James took some notes about this. This is the second year we have spoken to Minister James about creating two residential property tax classes.

We also asked for an update on cannabis revenue sharing between the province and local governments. We were told that this is currently being studied.

The UBCM conference is a good opportunity to meet with people elected to provincial government, and I was happy to advocate on behalf of Langley City residents with other members of council.

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