Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Over 320 units of new affordable housing moving forward in Langley

Housing affordability is a top of mind for concern for most people in Metro Vancouver. The federal government, provincial government, and local governments have recognized that something had to be done. Over the last several years, new funding has been made available to build more affordable housing units throughout our region.

Affordable housing includes everything from emergency shelters to home ownership. The following chart shows how the provincial government supports affordable housing.

BC Housing support along the housing continuum. Select image to enlarge. Source: BC Housing.

The provincial government recently created a map of the affordable housing projects that are currently under construction in BC.

As shown in the map, there are four projects in Langley that are under construction: three in the Township and one in the City. There are 322 units in total which would be considered traditional social housing for low income families and seniors.

These units are in addition to recently open projects like the 49-unit Creek Stone Supportive Housing facility.

322 units of new affordable housing is a good start, but it is only a start. We will need both the federal and provincial governments to continue to invest in affordable housing for Langley.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Metro Vancouver’s progress in managing garbage, recycling, and organics.

One of the goals of our region is to reduce the amount of solid waste that is generated, and the amount of that waste that ends up in landfill or sent to our region’s waste-to-energy facility. The Metro Vancouver Regional District has released a new report which shows how we as a region as progressing towards meeting these targets.

In 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, 64% of solid waste was diverted from landfill or waste-to-energy.

Overall regional waste diversion. Select chart to enlarge.

This is following a quarter-century trend of increasing the amount of solid waste that is being diverted.

Regional waste diversion rate. From 1994 to 2018. Select chart to enlarge.

When it comes to waste diversion, not all things are equal. Our building industry is a leader in preventing waste from being burned or land-filled. Almost 2/3rd of waste from single-family housing is also diverted. There is significant room for improvement with only 37% of waste from multi-family housing being diverted, and 46% of waste diverted from offices and shops.

2018 waste diversion by sectors. Select chart to enlarge.

In order to increase the amount of waste diverted from multi-family housing, the regional district will be working on a recycling toolkit for property managers. The district will also be working to develop new programs to encourage offices and shops to increase their recycling rates.

The regional district is also planning to work with its “member municipalities to examine regional approaches to reducing single-use items, many of which are plastic.”

Reducing the amount of waste generated is important. The following graph shows that per capita waste generation peaked in 2007, and has been relatively flat since 2010. There is room for improvement.

Per capita waste generation, recycling, and disposal. From 1994 to 2018. Select chart to enlarge.

The regional district plans to continue promoting its “Think Thrice” campaign which encourages residents to reduce clothing purchases, and repair or reuse clothes. Clothing creates a significant amount of waste in our region.

Monday, January 20, 2020

RapidBus Review: R5 Hasting Street, room for improvement. R1 King George Boulevard, fast and frequent.

With the introduction of the new TransLink RapidBus fast and frequent network in Metro Vancouver, my good friend Paul Hillsdon and I decided to ride every one of these routes two Saturdays ago. We were both impressed with the new R3 Lougheed Highway which cut travel time in half for people in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows to get to Coquitlam Station. Would the R5 Hastings Street and R1 King George Boulevard route be equally impressive?

RapidBus at the SFU Transit Exchange. Select image to enlarge.

The R5 RapidBus used to be the 95 B-Line. The difference between the 95 B-Line and R5 RapidBus as far as Paul and I could tell was the new real-time, iconic bus stop signs and newly branded buses.

Hasting Street has HOV/Bus lanes that are only active Monday thru Friday. The westbound lane is active between 6am to 8:30am in Burnaby, and 7am to 10am in Vancouver. The eastbound lane is active between 3:30pm and 6pm in Burnaby, and 3pm to 7pm in Vancouver.

RapidBuses have all-door boarding. I took advantage of that at SFU. Select image to enlarge.

We were travel near noon on Saturday which meant that the RapidBus was in general travel lanes subject to the overall congestion of the road. While getting through Burnaby was good, things slowed to a crawl in Vancouver.

To improve the speed of the R5 Hasting Street, further transit priority measures are needed. The first consideration should be to extend the bus lanes to be active every day of the week. The second consideration should be to extend the operation hours of those HOV/Bus lanes.

The City of Vancouver has a lot of traffic signals. If you get suck in the wrong timing pattern, hitting all red lights slows down travel. To speed up R5 service in Vancouver, traffic signals should be programmed to let the R5 buses through. This used to happen with the B-Line to Richmond before the Canada Line.

Overall, there is room for improvement on the R5.

RapidBus at Surrey Central SkyTrain station. Select image to enlarge.

I’ve taken the R1 King George Boulevard when it was a B-Line. The City of Surrey has been investing in transit priority measures since the former B-Line was introduced in 2013. There are bus-only lanes, query-jumper lanes at traffic signals, and other transit priority measures. With the introduction of the new real-time, iconic bus stop signage, I believe that this route lives up to the RapidBus brand standard. The service felt fast.

RapidBus stop at Surrey Central. Select image to enlarge.

There is always room for improvement. I believe that the section of routing through the Surrey Central SkyTrain area could be improved where the buses turn off King George Boulevard, and at 104th and King George.

Paul and I at the Guildford transit exchange. Select image to enlarge.

It is my understanding that further transit priority measures are in the works for the R1 route, and I look forward to seeing them implemented.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Your feedback needed on Langley City’s future.

Back in last November and early December, a public workshop and subsequent open house occurred as part of the process of updating Langley City’s Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw.

Concept land-use plan for Langley City. Select picture to view.

An Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw are the most important planning documents municipalities in BC have. They set the direction for communities including land-use and environmental protection.

Because Langley City’s Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw haven’t received a significant update since the last century, and with the pending arrival of SkyTrain, City council decided it was time for these key documents to have an overhaul.

While workshops and open houses are great, not everyone can get to them. In order to make sure that a broader range of perspectives are heard, an online survey has been launched.

The survey asks people to provide feedback about their hopes and aspirations for our community, various land-use concepts and housing types proposed, what the City should be focusing on when updating the Official Community Plan, and the general future of Langley City.

The survey will take around 15 minutes to complete, and I encourage everyone who has an interest in Langley City to complete it.

Your feedback will help guide the development of our community for the next generation.

Take the survey

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

January 13 Council Meeting: TransLink and City signing SkyTrain extension memo of understanding

Yesterday, I posted about Monday night’s public hearing and council meeting in relationship to the proposed redevelopment of the Langley Lions Housing complex that borders Langley Mall, 203rd Street, 54th Avenue, and 204th Street. Today, I will be posting about the remaining items that were covered that night.

Building SkyTrain to Langley is getting closer to becoming a reality. Mayor van den Broek announced that the City and TransLink will be signing a memo of understanding regarding building SkyTrain to our community.

This document outlines TransLink’s responsibilities, the City’s responsibilities, and our joint responsibilities to ensure the success of the project. This includes what measures the City’s is putting in place to support this massive SkyTrain investment.

One of the ways that the City is supporting extending SkyTrain to Langley is by working towards updating our Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw which will help build a walkable, bikeable, and transit-first community.

This memo of understanding is critical as it shows that TransLink, the Mayors’ Council, and Langley City are committed to getting this project built. This is important as the Mayors’ Council is currently working to secure funding from both the federal and provincial governments for this project.

Back in December, council gave first and second reading for a rezoning bylaw that would enable the construction of a proposed 114 apartment unit, 2,085 square feet of ground-level retail, 6-storey, mixed-use building that will front Logan Avenue, 203 A Street, and Locke Lane near the casino. At Monday night’s public hearing, people were given the opportunity to provide feedback on the rezoning bylaw and proposed building.

Logan Avenue Mixed-Used Project. Top-down view from Locke Lane. Select image to enlarge.

One person who attended the public hearing was interested in knowing the exact location of the project which was provided.

Back in February 2019, council gave third reading for a rezoning bylaw to enable building a proposed apartment complex located at 5470, 5480, 5490, 5500, 5510 199A Street (Brydon Crescent Area.) Council gave final reading to that bylaw on Monday and approved issuing a development permit.

Renders of proposed apartment project at 5470, 5480, 5490, 5500, 5510 199A Street. Select image to enlarge.

Sometimes, there can be significant gaps between a rezoning bylaw receiving third reading and it being finally adopted. One reason why this happens is due to the proponent delaying a project. Another reason why this happens is because City staff must be satisfied that a proposed project can meet the conditions of the rezoning bylaw and development permit. There can be some back and forth to get to that point.

Council also received year-end reports from the Community Day Committee, Youth Committee, and Magic of Christmas Parade Committee which can be view by following the links.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

January 13 Public Hearing: Proposed Langley Lions Housing Society Redevelopment Project

People attending the public hearing for the proposed Langley Lions Housing Society Redevelopment Project. Select image to enlarge.

Last night was a public hearing for people to provided feedback on a proposed 101-unit building to replace the former Birch building which burnt down on the Langley Lions Housing Society site. In addition, the public hearing provided an opportunity for people to provide feedback about the overall master plan for the proposed eventual redevelopment of the entire Langley Lions Housing Society site.

The proposed project would require an update to the Official Community Plan, creating a Langley Lions Seniors District. It would also require an update to the City’s zoning bylaw, a development permit, and the discharge of a land-use contract.

Council received both written submissions as well as heard from people who spoke at the public hearing.

From what I read and heard, there were two categories of feedback. One set was in support of the proposed development. The other set, while not opposed to the project, had various degrees of concern about the project.

Two of the common concerns that I read and heard was around tenant mixed, and the proposed rent payment structure.

Currently, 86.3% of the tenants are aged 55 and above, and 13.7% of tenants are under the age of 55 in Langley Lions Housing Society rental units. The proposed tenant mix for the replacement Birch building is 80% for people aged 55 and above, and 20% for people under the age of 55.

BC Housing provided a written submission for the public hearing as they are a funding partner for the proposed redevelopment of the Birch building. BC Housing noted the following is its letter about the proposed new rent structure for the building:

30% of the units are proposed for moderate income people (affordable market rental)
50% of units are proposed to be rent geared to income (rent is 30% of household total gross income)
20% of units are proposed to be low income deep subsidy for people on income assistance

BC Housing also noted in their written submission that “under this rental rate structure, none of its subsidized tenants for the new Birch building will be required to pay more than 30% of income for rent.”

There was also concern expressed around increasing the density.

People representing various seniors support organizations in our community called on the City to have a social planner review the Langley Lions Housing Society’s proposal, and for the participation of the various Langley-based organizations that support seniors.

The Langley Care Society which operates the Langley Lodge, adjacent to the Langley Lions Housing Society site, had some specific concerns around construction impacts, impacts to their wireless provider tenants on the roof of the Langley Lodge building, and shadowing of their outside garden by the proposed new Birch building.

At the end of the regular council meeting last night, the following motion was unanimously adopted by council:

THAT City Staff work with the Langley Lions Housing Society and its funding partners to ensure that, on average, 87% of the units in phase 1 and phase 2 of the Master Plan are for the exclusive residency of seniors. For example, phase 1 may have 80% and phase 2 may have 90% of unit for the exclusive residency of seniors; and,

THAT City Staff work with the Langley Lions Housing Society and its funding partners to ensure that future phases have at least 87% of the units for the exclusive residency of seniors.

THAT if future phases will have less than 87%, and more than 85%, of the unit for the exclusive use of seniors that the Langley Lions Housing Society and its funding partners work with City council and staff to find a mutually agreeable percentage, noting the importance of senior’s housing for our community and council’s desire to maintain 87% of the unit for the exclusive use of seniors.

This motion will help guide the development of a housing agreement which is proposed to be required as part of the zoning process. The housing agreement will “ensure that the proposed housing units are developed and maintained for the intended purposes.”

Further consideration of this proposal will occur at a future council meeting.

Monday, January 13, 2020

RapidBus Review - R3 Lougheed Highway lives up to hype

One of the key priorities in the Mayors’ Council 10-Year Vision is to improve the fast and frequent bus network in Metro Vancouver. On January 6th, TransLink launched the RapidBus program to much fanfare. This is the new brand name for the fast and frequent bus network in our region, and includes new routes plus re-branded B-Line routes. Does the RapidBus network live up to its hype?

My good friend Paul Hillsdon and I decided to ride every RapidBus last Saturday to find out. Over the next little while, I’ll be posting a review about each of the current RapidBus routes. The first route we took was the R3 Lougheed Highway.

Paul Hillsdon and I at Carvolth Transit Exchange. Select image to enlarge.

Paul and I met up, and took the 595 to Maple Ridge from Carvolth Park and Ride. We noticed that the 595 connects to the R3 in Maple Ridge, but unfortunately this is only during peak periods.

The 595 should always connect to the R3 Lougheed Highway, but unfortunately this only happen during peak periods. Select image to enlarge.

For us, this meant that we had to walk about 5 minutes from the 595 stop to the R3 stop because we were travelling on a Saturday. As someone who uses public transit as their primary mode of travel, I can tell you that having inconsistent bus routing isn’t ideal.

I know everything costs money, but it seems like having the 595 connect to the R3 all the times would be an easy win. It would also make it significantly faster to get to Coquitlam Station. Previously, I’d have to take a bus to King George SkyTrain, transfer at Columbia SkyTrain Station, and transfer at Lougheed SkyTrain Station to get to the Coquitlam Station area.

The R3 heading along Lougheed Highway. Select image to enlarge.

Once on the R3, the service was fast! The 701 during peak travel periods takes 53 minutes to get from Haney Place to Coquitlam Central station, the R3 takes 36 minutes. This is because there were investments made to get buses out of congestion at key areas along Lougheed Highway.

When I took the 701 from time-to-time in the past, I remember the bus getting jammed up along Lougheed Highway near Coquitlam Centre. TransLink in partnership with the City of Coquitlam have put in bus priority measures in this area which really speeds up service.

Bus lanes from the R3 near Coquitlam Centre. Select image to enlarge.

A new bus-only intersection that connects the Coquitlam Centre bus loop to Lougheed Highway. Select image to enlarge.

Our roads are not getting any wider. To allow more people to travel through a corridor, improving bus priority is critical, even if it means reallocating road space from general travel lanes.

Besides speed, one of the other highly anticipated features was the introduction of real-time arrival information at RapidBus stops.

Paul pointing at the real-time bus arrival information. Select image to enlarge.

While the real-time information was useful, there is some room for improvement. First, if you press the audio button to get the real-time information read to you, both the pronunciation of Coquitlam and Lougheed were seriously incorrect. The other thing I noticed is that sometimes the real-time information was in minutes and sometimes it was in time-of-day format. I find it much more useful to have it always in minutes.

Another area where there is room for improvement on this route is to have bus shelters at all stops. While not a deal breaker, it is a nice to have.

There is no bus shelter at this RapidRus stop in Port Coquitlam. Select image to enlarge.

Overall, I think that the R3 Lougheed Highway lives up to the hype. It is a major improvement to transit service for people in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Help Keep Langley City Litter-Free. Join the Point of Pride Program.

Trail-head at 208th Street to Nicomekl Trail System. Select image to enlarge.

Like most residents and businesses in our community, I take pride in Langley City’s 10 square kilometres. It bothers me, and I’m sure many other people, when I see cigarette butts on the sidewalk, single-use packaging floating down the street, and garbage in our parks, trails, and streams.

I’ve had residents tell me that they spend time cleaning up litter during their daily walks or runs, and I've seen many businesses also cleanup around their locations.

While City Council has increased our maintenance budget over the last few years which includes enhanced cleanup, City staff cannot get to all corners of our community daily.

If you currently cleanup litter today, or are thinking about it, Langley City has a Point of Pride Program which helps support you as an individual, business, or group.

The following outlines the details of the program:

  • Individuals and groups will be assigned a specific street, park or trail according to their preferences
  • Participants will be provided with litter bags, tongs, and gloves
  • Participants may: pick up litter, clear waterways (under DFO direction)
  • Participants must notify Langley City staff if they find any hazards, graffiti or broken equipment
  • Be familiar with the assigned area and boundaries

The only ask is that people maintain a consistent number of hours per month of participating in the Point of Pride Program.

One of the perks of being a part of this program is after six months of participation, a sign will be placed in your cleanup area with your name, business name, or group name to celebrate your work in keeping our city clean.

For more information about this program, or to sign-up, please visit the Point of Pride web page.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Metro Vancouver looking to partner with municipalities to build affordable housing

Metro Vancouver Housing - Sutton Place. Image source: Metro Vancouver Regional District

BC Housing —the provincial government— in association with its non-profit partners are responsible for providing a significant portion of the affordable housing stock in our region. This includes housing such as emergency shelters, supportive housing, and social housing for low-income seniors and families, as well as rental assistance for private marketing housing.

The federal government plays a role in making private home ownership attainable. It is now also getting back into funding other types of affordable housing options via the National Housing Strategy.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District also provides affordable housing to 9,400 people in 3,400 units in our region. Unit rents are either rent-geared-to-income where people pay a percentage of their income, or low-end priced market rent. As I posted about in September, the regional district was looking to expand its number of affordable rental units by at least 500 over the next decade in partnership with municipalities in the region.

To accomplish this, the regional district was looking to increase its housing budget by $4 million per year. This was recently approved, and the district has now started the process of building more affordable housing units.

The regional district is looking to build or renew at least 850 unit on its current sites, and to build 500 new units in other locations throughout our region. Currently, the regional district’s housing stock is concentrated north of the Fraser; there is no regional district housing in Langley.

Over the first quarter of this year, the regional district will be reaching out to municipalities in Metro Vancouver to see if they are willing to partner. What the regional district is looking for is land that can be leased or sold to the regional district for a nominal fee (ie: a dollar).

Based on the responses received from municipalities, the regional district will pick sites based on the following:

Development potential: the total number of units that can be achieved and site and development readiness

Tenant livability: convenient access to community amenities and transit

Financial feasibility: agreements that support Metro Vancouver Housing’s financial and operational models

Regional equity: consideration of existing distribution of Metro Vancouver Housing throughout the region

Municipal actions: actions to support the development of affordable housing (e.g., expedited approvals processes, parking reduction, fee waivers, grants, density bonusing)

I will certainly be supportive of partnering with Metro Vancouver in Langley City to build more affordable housing. I hope that we can get more Metro Vancouver funding affordable housing in the south of Fraser and Langley as there is currently a gap.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Metro Vancouver: North American transit leader. Bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express ridership up.

Currently in Metro Vancouver, we are midway through our region’s 10-Year Transportation Vision which includes significant investment into bus, SkyTrain, and commuter rail service in addition to larger projects such as extending the SkyTrain network along Broadway and to Langley.

Carvolth Exchange in the Township of Langley. Select image to enlarge.

This investment in service, combined with a strong economy, has created a boom in transit ridership. Starting in 2017, there has been a significant increase in transit ridership in Metro Vancouver. The latest numbers show that this trend is continuing.

The American Public Transit Association keeps track of ridership statistics from public transit agencies in both Canada and the US. They recently release their third-quarter ridership results from 2019.

The year-to-date information shows the following ridership increases in Metro Vancouver as follows:

  • SkyTrain: 3.45% increase
  • West Coast Express: 5.83% increase
  • SeaBus: 3.57% increase
  • Bus: 4.6% increase

One of the interesting numbers is the increase in ridership for the West Coast Express. Starting in 2013, ridership on the West Coast Express decreased. Average weekday ridership was 10,600. This dipped to 9,300 in 2017. In the third quarter of 2019, ridership was up to 10,300. The introduction of SkyTrain service to the tri-cities area seems to have not had a long-term impact on West Coast Express ridership.

In Canada, the Toronto and Montreal regions have higher rail transit usage which makes sense due to their larger population. Compared to the US, our region’s rail network is in the same league as Washington DC, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and New York City.

For bus service, only Toronto, LA, and New York City have higher ridership.

The numbers show that there is a built-up demand for transit in our region, and when provided with increased service, people will use it. This year will be a critical year to get the ball rolling on the final phase of our region’s 10-Year Transportation Vision. Funding to implement the final phase needs to be confirmed by both the federal and provincial governments, plus our regions’ mayors need to figure out how to pay for the regional portion.

The regional portion funds the on-going operation costs. Some of the funding tools available today include increasing transit fares, property tax, gas tax, developer fees, or a combination of all four.

I look forward to our region moving forward with the final phase of this vision as it will also include getting SkyTrain built to Langley.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Single-family houses and apartments decrease in value, townhouses retain value in Langley City. What does this mean for your property tax bill?

With the new year in full swing, most people who own property should have received their property assessment notices from the BC Assessment Authority. These assessed property values will be used for calculating property taxes for Langley City, the Metro Vancouver Regional District, Langley School Board, and TransLink.

Overall in Langley City, there was an average 3.4% reduction in residential property values between July 1st, 2018 and July 1st, 2019. There was an average 12% increase in commercial property values and 16.4% increase in industrial property values.

For residential properties, the change in value impacted properties differently depending on location and type of housing.

Single-family housing in Langley City neighbourhoods south of the Nicomekl River saw an on-average reduction in property value of 5.8%.

For single-family housing north of the Nicomekl River, on-average property values increased 4.1%. This is likely due to the redevelopment potential of land north of the Nicomekl to apartments and row-houses which is permitted under the current official community plan.

Row-houses/townhouses in the City saw on-average property values stay relatively static between July 1st, 2018 and July 1st, 2019.

Apartments in Langley City saw an on-average property value decrease of 4.1%.

So, what does this mean for your 2020 property taxes?

Your taxes are tied to the budget of Langley City and other local government organizations. If your property value increases or decrease, it doesn’t impact these budgets as the tax rate is set to collect the money required to cover the budgets via changing the mill rate.

Even though Langley City’s residential property values on-average decreased, this does not mean that the City will have less revenue.

So, why are there differences in property tax increases or decreases between different residential properties in our community?

If your residential property value changes above the average, you will see a higher increase in property tax. If your residential property changes below the average, you will see a lower increase or possible decrease in property tax.

In Langley City, this means that people who own single-family homes south of the Nicomekl River will see the lowest increase in property tax (or possible decrease) in the 2020 tax year. Apartment owners will see the second lowest increase. Row-house/townhouse owners will see the second highest increase. While people who own single-family homes north of the Nicomekl River will see the highest increase in property tax compared to the previous year.

For more information about how this work, please read a post I wrote last year called, “One residential mill rate causes uneven property tax changes in Langley City. Find out why.

For more information about historical property values and taxes by address, visit Langley City’s website.

To investigate assessed property values, please visit the BC Assessment Authority’s Interactive Map.