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Vancouverites will have the chance to vote for the city we need

Ryan Schebek

July 5, 2018

A rent freeze, although only one aspect of the City We Need platform, is at the heart of a movement in Vancouver. The municipal party endorsing this platform is the Coalition of Progressive Electors or COPE. Currently there are three COPE candidates running for city council endorsing the City We Need Platform and pushing for radical change at city hall: Jean Swanson, Derrick O’Keefe and Anne Roberts. Vancouverites will have a chance to vote for the city we need on October 20.

The median rent in Vancouver for a one bedroom apartment exceeds $2200 a month. Due to loop holes in the way landlords charge rent, rental rates have gone up 20% in the last year. This is despite a provincial rule that rents cannot be raised more than 4% per year. COPE candidates hope to close all loop holes (like renovictions) with a rent freeze, tying rental rates to the unit. Therefore if one tenant moves out and a new one moves in the rent cannot be increased.

Critics argue a rent freeze would hurt tenants, but this is clearly not the case. They say a rent freeze will cause landlords to stop renting all together, now that they cannot extort tenants. But this is highly doubtful as landlords benefit from supplementing their income with rental properties. There is no reason why a landlord would turn down a chance to make supplementary income from rental property just because it is no longer sky rocketing in price. Some argue Vancouver’s rental woes stem from an improper balance of supply and demand. However as new luxury condos are popping up like weeds, it is not a question of the quantity of the supply meeting demand but what kind of supply. There is plenty of government land that could be used to build affordable housing, and development permits could prioritize developers willing to build affordable units.

Although a rent freeze is out of the jurisdiction of city hall, City We Need and COPE offer a unique solution. The plan is that COPE candidates will act as an activist council that will push for altering the Vancouver City Charter (which changes often) and give the city more say in helping its people find somewhere to live—while at the same time pressuring the provincial government to get involved with the housing crisis. City We Need is building a movement that ordinary people can get behind, one that will inspire them to demand change. If the average person cannot afford to live in Vancouver we all lose, as the cities most vulnerable end up homeless and many working class people dig up their roots and leave. We all lose as populations are displaced and vibrant neighbourhoods are gentrified. The city we need is a city that de-commodifies housing and this is what COPE plans to do if elected.

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