*This statement has been sent to the Vancouver Mayor and City Council in time for the Public Hearing on September 20, 2016*
Dear Mayor and Vancouver City Council,
In response to the “REZONING: Joyce-Collingwood Station Precinct Plan and Related Rezonings”, the Joyce Area Residents Association (JARA) would like to offer our comments in opposition to the proposed rezonings in our neighbourhood.
You may recall a group of passionate community members, from youth to seniors, who came down to City Hall to offer comments on rushed development in our community in June this year. Rapid growth inherently conflicts with Vancouver’s goal to become the greenest city. We urge City Council to carefully consider the following before making a decision about the proposed mass rezoning.
High Renter Population/Current Affordability
The high renter population in the neighbourhood must be considered. As indicated in the plan, 46 percent of 6,300 home dwellings are rented by individuals and families. Many have chosen to stay as renting has always been a more affordable option. However, with the current state of growing unaffordability in the city, unprotected and displaced renters will be left with no other options for housing. Many renters are currently spending somewhere between 30 to 50 per cent of their income on rent. As a result, new development does not guarantee that current renters will be able to afford the units. There is an urgent need for more non-market rentals, especially in a neighbourhood with such high percentages of low-income, immigrant families and seniors.
Transit Convenience & Services
The City of Vancouver has already found that Renfrew-Collingwood area has a higher representation of low-income and immigrant residents compared to the city-wide average. In addition, the neighbourhood is also home to one of the highest proportions of seniors.
As you may recall, JARA conducted an extensive neighbourhood survey where we knocked on the doors of over 100 homes in the affected rezoning areas. These are not just families that can simply pick up and go. They have built roots and community in our neighbourhood. Many have told us that they cannot afford to stay in the neighbourhood without renters or extended family. Many have also said that they are unsure about where they could find other housing even after they’ve searched for housing elsewhere in Greater Vancouver. A great number of homes are multi-generational and their current dwelling is able to accommodate low-income families that want to live together.
The City of Vancouver insists that density is necessary because thousands are expected to flock to our neighbourhood. While our neighbourhood has always been a chosen area for newcomers and non-English speakers from a wide variety of backgrounds to settle, approving the rezonings may jeopardize that. Townhomes and apartments will not necessarily be able to house as many as the Single Family Homes for affordable rates.
JARA supports transit-oriented development that is equitable for long-term, current and new residents. We ask City Council to make a point of prioritizing affordable housing for low-income, newcomer families, youth and seniors in this community as opposed to adding it as a potential afterthought. Plans say there is potential for more affordable housing. What is the timeline? How long will the most vulnerable in our community have to wait?
Consultation Still Inadequate
While the City of Vancouver cites the 2004 Community Vision for the neighbourhood, it is clear that recommendations in the document are being ignored. Planners are veering from more collaborative and democratic engagement and consultation methods to more cherry-picking tactics. This is clear in the cryptic documents attached to this agenda item and the staff’s refusal to conduct household surveys in the affected areas and intensive months long community workshops as done for the Community Vision in 2003 and 2004.
At the very least, homeowners should be given an objective explanation of how these rezonings will impact them. There is a great deal of unrest and confusion among homeowners that intend to stay in the neighbourhood. City Council should provide unbiased staff to consult with homeowners in their mother tongues as 73% of our neighbourhood is ESL. Homeowners are being told they are able to stay while they are getting pressured by developers and real estate agents to sell. Homeowners are also being pushed out due to the threat of living in a highly congested construction zone for many years. Further, our small businesses are already feeling the crunch. As you know, the small businesses around the station are primarily immigrant owned. The majority are not in favour of the re-zonings and fear that it could mean their long-term businesses are at stake due to increased rents and business taxes. City Councillors mentioned protection of small businesses is a concern on June 28, 2016 at City Hall. What are the safeguards in place to protect these businesses as bigger chains pop up in the area?
Further, since the new General Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability, Gil Kelley is just easing into his new position, JARA urges City Council to put a pause on the rezonings to hear input from Mr. Kelley. With his new responsibilities having a strong emphasis on housing affordability, it is important to hear more about his findings in a Vancouver context.
Once again, we urge City Council to deny the proposed rezonings of single family homes in the Joyce Station Precinct Plan, and come up with solutions that add density without destroying perfectly good homes and displacing families.
Arielle Yip, Chanel Ly, Cassandra Ly on behalf of
Members and supporters of the Joyce Area Residents’ Association (JARA)