Pete Fry, BC Green Party
What can we do about the impact of rising rental rates in a neighbourhood whose incomes are increasingly unable to support them?
We need to be ensuring that we are not relying entirely on the market to supply affordable rental housing. I have long advocated that we need to extract more value from the property transfer tax system and the commodification of our local real estate and start investing that. Right now, $1.4 billion in property taxes from last year alone is going into general revenue, but I would like to see it going into housing. I’d like to see property transfer taxes tweaked to address speculators, foreign corporate investors, luxury properties and enhance that revenue by putting it into building new housing and subsidize the building of new public housing and rental housing.
I would also like to see us start looking towards the model that we see in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba with the renters tax credit. In those provinces, and increasingly in the U.S., renters who are paying high rents can actually declare their rents on their income tax and receive some kind of credit or rebate at tax time. What we see in Vancouver Mount-Pleasant where we have three-quarters of the riding in rent is that an extremely high proportion of them are paying more than 50 percent of their income when the benchmark is supposed to be 30 percent. Obviously there is a disconnect, and we need to insure that housing affordability is made available to the people that live and work here because it is vital to our quality of life and local economy. Vancouverites need to actually be able to afford to live where they work.
Marijuana Dispensaries abound in the riding. What can be done to integrate them more successfully into the community?
I’m not sure what you mean by “integrate them more successfully into the community.” I mean, they are what they are, and in the end it’s a business model. I don’t think we can look at how we necessarily integrate businesses like pharmacies or any kind of special dispensaries; they are just a very specialized market. I think that we should enhance and protect bubble zones around vulnerable populations, so I don’t think we should have dispensaries too close to schools or community centers. Of course they should be operating within the scope of the law, and I know that there have been some really top-drawer operations and some that are a little bit shady and we need to regulate, tax and monitor these with the utmost discretion. It is a controlled substance and there is the risk of criminality or whatever might come with it, so I think we need to be on top of that. Otherwise, I would not want to see them more integrated into normal society. I think it is probably fine the way it is, as far as integration goes.
What is the one policy change you would push for as the MLA for the riding?
Aggressive movement on housing affordability. That is 100 percent the biggest issue for me. We have a lot of pressure coming on to this riding in particular, a lot of big projects happening, and these things combined bring about a lot of change that risks a lot of displacement. We have the viaducts removal, we have the new St. Paul’s Hospital, we have the Broadway Subway, and all three of those projects are massive game changers for this riding that are going to bring a lot of development and money. We really need to be on top of this housing affordability issue as we embrace these new changes, because if we don’t we are going to displace a lot of people. We will only see our homeless numbers go up, we will see more stress and family dysfunction, and it will compromise the health and well being of Vancouverites. It’s important that we have communities where everybody can live and thrive and socioeconomic diversity is a big part of that, which housing is at the root of.
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