Monday, February 24, 2020

Council of Councils Meeting: Managing growth, building affordable housing, and renewing Iona Island

40 local government elected representatives sit on the Metro Vancouver Regional District board. This is about a quarter of all local government elected representatives in our region. To give an opportunity to directly hear from, and ask questions to the regional district, Council of Councils meetings are held several times a year for all elected representatives.

Metro Vancouver Council of Council Meeting. Select image to enlarge. 

The latest meeting took place on Saturday at the Anvil Centre in New Westminster. The following are some of the highlights from that meeting.

Metro 2050 – Updating Regional Growth Strategy

With 35,000 people on-average per year moving to our region, primarily driven by immigration, there will be 3.6 million people that call Metro Vancouver home by 2050.

Our region has a good track record of concentrating growth within existing urban areas to reduce the high economic, social, and environmental costs of sprawl. While the current regional growth strategy has served us well, it is due for an update.

Some of the updates to be included are new population projections, and integration with TransLink’s upcoming long-term transportation plan called Transport 2050.

In the last decade since the current regional growth strategy was adopt, our understand around climate change impacts has improved and well as social equity concerns. The affordable housing crisis has also become more pronounced. Metro 2050 will address these matters.

The new Metro 2050 Regional Growth Strategy will need to be endorsed by all councils in our region as it is a binding document. It is expected that this should happening starting in 2022.

Because of the importance of this strategy, there will be robust public engagement.

Metro Vancouver Housing 10-Year Plan

There are 9,400 people that live in Metro Vancouver Regional District housing. 30% of households in regional district housing have their rent geared to their income while the remaining households live in low-end-of-market priced rental units.

The regional district wants to renew and expand their family-friendly housing. Over the next decade, they want to acquire 350 new units to manage, and build an additional 500 new units on municipal lands.

The regional district is also look for the province and federal government to commit even more funding to build affordable housing, so that this number can be larger.

Currently, the regional district is reaching out to member municipalities to see who is willing to help partner on building these 500 new units of affordable rental housing.

Regional Industrial Lands Strategy

Industrial land in our region only represents 4% of the land base, but is home to 27% of the jobs in Metro Vancouver. There is currently an industrial land shortage in our region. This is driving up lease costs which is hurting businesses and limited job growth.

Industrial uses include production, distribution, repair, and construction of goods, plus outdoor storage, and wholesale uses.

One of the current challenges is that there are other non-industrial uses occurring on industrial lands such as retail shops and consumer services such as doggie daycares. One of the ways to protect industrial land is to ensure that only industrial uses are permitted within them.

The upcoming industrial land strategy will be implemented in the next year or so with the goal of ensuring that there is enough industrial lands until 2050.

It was made clear that destroying agricultural land to provide more space for industry was not a solution.

For more information, please read a previous blog post I wrote on this topic.

Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant Project Update

Metro Vancouver’s second largest wastewater (sewage) treatment plant is located on Iona Island and was built in the 1960s. It does not meet modern environmental standards, so it needs to be replaced.

Slide about Iona Island. Select image to enlarge.

The regional district is looking at replacing this treatment plant in phases with a tertiary filtration plant. This type of wastewater treatment plant is the best for the environment, is the most cost effective to build and maintain, and provides for the best recovery of water, electricity (waste-to-energy), bio-oil, and natural gas from sewage.

In addition to replacing the current plant, the regional district will be enhancing habitat and improving water flow in the inter-tidal area near the plant to support salmon and bird migration.

The new plant should be up and running by the end of 2030.

Iona Island is just north of YVR airport.

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