Election 2022 – The Need for Change

Developer campaign funding is a major issue

Despite election finance reforms banning union and corporate donations, big money especially from developers continues to flow into this civic election.

By Elizabeth Murphy, October 12, 2022

Olson Cartoon-2022 Election-2 sides of coinTwo sides of the same coin: Both Kennedy Stewart (Forward) and Ken Sim (ABC) continue to raise substantial funding from those in the development industry, counter to the intent of election finance reform.  Cartoon by Geoff Olson

Vancouver has been known as the wild west of developer, union and big money contributions to political parties. In the last election in 2018 there was a clear vote for change as the then dominant party Vision Vancouver was completely wiped out. However, the public never got the change they voted for since the Vision-appointed staff led the rookie council under mayor Kennedy Stewart to implement all of the Vision policies and plans, influenced in large part by the same big money that backed Vision.

That was all supposed to change after the province brought in the campaign finance reforms before the 2018 election that banned corporate and union donations, with limits for individuals. But in 2022 that has not stopped big money from influencing the election, with last reports of Kennedy Stewart (Forward Vancouver) at $1.2 million and Ken Sim (ABC) at $1.6 million, that buy up major advertising.

Voluntary donation disclosures have shown that many major developers are donating to both parties of Kennedy Stewart and Ken Sim. The Stewart / Sim developer alliances represent two sides of the same coin.

However, further revelations widely reported in the media from a leaked document attributed to Kennedy Stewart’s fundraising tactics, raises the issue of developer election contributions to a new focus that is now affecting the election in unforeseen ways.

The leaked document, alleged to be from Kennedy Stewart’s party Forward Vancouver, was a spreadsheet found by a homeless blogger that names major developers as fundraising captains with goals totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars, far in excess of what is allowed under campaign financing rules. Further, the document included alleged involvement of Kennedy Stewart’s City-paid staff, including his Chief of Staff Neil Moncton and Communications Director Alvin Singh. These allegations are under investigation, with some having been cleared as technically within the rules. However, it raises issues from the public perspective that cannot just be dismissed that easily.

Regulating land use and zoning for development is one of the main roles of civic government. So developers have a major incentive to donate to political parties that reflect their interests. The results of this are that land use policies also reflect their interests, such as the recently approved Broadway Plan and Vancouver Plan, both supported by Stewart and Sim. These plans would ensure Vancouver becomes a city of random concrete towers, creating massive loss of existing rentals, displacement, demoviction and land inflation, while ignoring decades of community and neighbourhood plans.

There has been major public opposition to this approach to planning that this current council ignored. This opposition includes former directors of planning Ray Spaxman and Larry Beasley, as well as many former senior city planners such as Ralph Segal, Christina DeMarco, Cameron Grey, Scot Hein, Trish French and Ronda Howard. Also senior UBC academics such as Patrick Condon, David Ley and Penny Gurstein.

Forum Research polling shows that 83% of voters are concerned about the amount of influence major corporate developers and other big financial interests have in City Hall decisions. This no doubt is having an effect on Kennedy Stewart’s significantly dropping support in another recent poll by Forum Research on October 4. Previously reported panel polls, that are notoriously unreliable, are being used to frame the election as a two horse race, but that is not the case.

Stewart is now at 24.4% in a tight neck and neck race with Colleen Hardwick (TEAM for a Livable Vancouver), who doesn’t take funds from major developers and is trending higher at 21.2%. Ken Sim (ABC) support has grown in large part due to his massive advertising, to 34.3%, but that support is shifting.

With 41% undecided voters, developer funding of parties is becoming a deciding factor. Vancouver voters are overwhelmingly concerned about major corporate developer donations solicited by Sim and Stewart, with 70.3% saying they disagree with candidates taking money from big developers. The poll also showed that 69.4% of respondents were concerned about Sim’s lack of knowledge about how Vancouver is governed. Continue reading

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Election 2022 – Future of Vancouver

Vancouver’s Plans Make the Future of the City an Election Issue

The 2022 election will determine if Vancouver’s future is a city of towers under the Broadway and Vancouver Plans or a city of livable affordable sustainable neighbourhoods.

By Elizabeth Murphy, Common Ground Magazine,  September 18, 2022

looking east from Vine Street - aerialBroadway Plan rendering looking east from Vine Street based on a careful review of the Plan’s text, but subsequent Council amendments accommodates even more towers than depicted.                                  Rendering by Stephen Bohus, BLA

The controversial Broadway Plan and Vancouver Plan were rushed through in June and July, after multiple days of hearings, in the last of the City Council’s meetings before the October 15, 2022 election. The next Council will decide if these plans are implemented or withdrawn for a new neighbourhood-based plan. This election determines Vancouver’s future.

The huge Broadway Plan area is First Avenue to 16th Avenue, Vine Street to Clark Drive. It covers the neighbourhoods of Fairview, South Granville, Cambie/City Hall, Mount Pleasant and parts of Kitsilano. The existing community plans, including Kitsilano’s plan that extends to Alma Street, have been repealed upon Broadway Plan approval.

This area has a lot of affordable existing rentals and ownership, mainly as low-rise apartments and character house multifamily conversions. The new building typologies are applied randomly across the corridor regardless of neighbourhood, and puts all of the existing stock at increased threat of demolition for expensive new concrete and glass towers of a downtown scale. This plan displaces most of the area’s current population.

Public opposition to this approach includes former directors of planning Ray Spaxman and Larry Beasley, as well as many former senior city planners such as Ralph Segal, Christina DeMarco, Cameron Grey, Scot Hein, Trish French and Ronda Howard. Also senior UBC academics such as Patrick Condon, David Ley and Penny Gurstein.

New building typologies allow towers of up to: 40 storeys at station areas; 30 storeys at shoulder areas; 6 storeys at villages; 20 storeys in apartment zones (currently 3-4 storeys); and 18 storeys in RT character house zones (currently 3 storeys for multiple-suites and infill). Rezoning speculation is inflating land values and rents. Towers are the least affordable and sustainable form of development so building scale should be limited to local context. Continue reading

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Broadway Plan

Murphy Interview on CKNW – Jill Bennette – Broadway Plan

By Elizabeth Murphy, Jill Bennette Show  May 7, 2022

looking east from Vine Street - aerial

Rally planned to protest Broadway/Vancouver plan – The Jill Bennett Show – Omny.fm

Broadway Plan & Vancouver Plan – Protest Rally Saturday May 7 at 11 am Guest: Elizabeth Murphy – private sector project manager and was formerly a Property Development Officer for the City of Vancouver’s Housing & Properties Department and for BC Housing.


City Hall Rally Coverage:



Copyright Elizabeth Murphy 2022 all rights reserved. 

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Data-based Planning

Census data should inform Vancouver planning

The 2021 Census confirms Vancouver is building more units than required for population growth

By Elizabeth Murphy, Business In Vancouver, March 1, 2022


Downtown Vancouver is now the densest in Canada according to the 2021 Census.


The recently released 2021 Census data confirms that there is more housing supply being built than required by population growth in Vancouver. This needs to inform the major planning initiatives currently underway across the city.

Population growth continues at about one percent per year, at 4.9 percent over the last five years 2016 to 2021, increased to 660,000 people, consistent with the pace over the last 40 years. Yet dwelling growth over the last five years has increased 6.1 percent. Vancouver continues to have over 23,000 empty dwellings unoccupied by usual residents.

The built housing supply is 20 percent higher than the rate of population growth. However, the cost of housing over that same period has continued to escalate, demonstrating that just adding more supply will not make housing more affordable.

In fact, if growth is not done carefully, it has the unintended consequences of inflating land values and making the situation worse, as we are currently experiencing. Development in the approval pipeline is already decades ahead of population growth, contrary to the supply deficit narrative.

Downtown Vancouver is now the most densely populated in Canada with 18,837 inhabitants per square kilometre in the 2021 Census. For comparison, Manhattan, New York, is 28,668 in 2020. Other top place Canadian cities are Toronto, 16,608; Montréal, 8,367; Calgary, 7,778; and Hamilton, 6,939.

The densest cities also tend to have more extremes in poverty and wealth and gaps in infrastructure.
Vancouver neighbourhoods are already having amenity deficits. Many local schools are at full capacity, such as downtown. Competition for entrance by lottery, often forces unlucky students to commute across town.

The city has not kept up with promised amenities for rezoned areas such as Norquay, Fraser Lands, and Marpole. The Cambie Corridor doesn’t have enough servicing , such as sewers, for the rezoned capacity. There are billions of dollars of infrastructure and amenities required for even what has already been rezoned, plus what is proposed.

The Broadway Plan and Jericho Lands are well beyond what is required for population growth without consideration of impacts on local context.

Other rampant spot rezoning policies also have no local area planning attached to them as they are broad and random. This includes the recently approved rental rezoning policies for on and off arterials citywide. Same with the mayor’s recently proposed 6 strata units on all RS lots pilot for 2000 projects of 10,000 units.

Development only covers a small percentage of the actual costs of related infrastructure. And in the case of rental housing, most development fees are reduced or exempted. So most of these costs must be carried by property taxes and capital debt financing. Taxes contribute to the costs of living.

Increasingly, the city is also having to cover responsibilities of the provincial and federal governments for underfunded housing and social programs, with policing and emergency services filling the gaps.
These impacts will increase the denser the city becomes, with more people being displaced, as we are experiencing downtown and other upzoned neighbourhoods.

While growth is inevitable, there is a choice as to how this is done. The challenge is to do it in a way that provides the needed housing, without overwhelming existing infrastructure. This requires incremental growth at a scale that new needed infrastructure can be affordably provided without inflating land values.

These are the fundamentals of planning for a livable, affordable and sustainable city, not just unlimited growth promotion. Shifting from the Livable Region Strategic Plan to the Regional Growth Strategy in 2011, was a mistake as things have deteriorated exponentially since then.

There are limits to growth and this needs to be discussed. Not the polarized all-or-nothing labeling of NIMBY vs. YIMBY narrative that shuts down rational thinking.

Instead, we can have more multiplexes in a form that suites each neighbourhood, ensuring that the needed amenities and services are provided with it.

For example, zoning should be incentivizing more multiple secondary suites, duplexes, multiplex strata units and infill with character house retention like the RT zones. But it needs to consider each neighbourhood’s existing lot sizes, building types and related local context for conversions and new multifamily.

The census data confirms that population growth is consistently about one percent per year. That can easily be provided for at a livable scale that fits in every neighbourhood, including options for co-ops and social housing.

But there are no quick fixes. It requires doing the neighbourhood-based planning work with meaningful local community involvement, for a livable, affordable and sustainable future for all.

Elizabeth Murphy is a private sector project manager and was formerly a property development officer for the City of Vancouver’s housing and properties department and for B.C. Housing. info@elizabethmurphy.ca

Copyright Elizabeth Murphy 2022 all rights reserved. 

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CKNW Interview: Mayor’s Housing Motion

Elizabeth Murphy on the Jas Johal Show CKNW

Interviewed on January 31, 2022 at 4:05 pm

Jas Johal: Kennedy Stewart’s housing plan ‘puts electioneering ahead of responsible land use’, former City property development officer says


Elizabeth Murphy, a private sector project manager, and was formerly a Property Development Officer for the City of Vancouver and for BC Housing discusses Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s housing plan

Link to Elizabeth Murphy Interview Here:                                                                             https://omny.fm/shows/cknw-afternoons/kennedy-stewart-s-housing-plan-puts-electioneering

Jas Johal Show Image

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Citywide Rezonings

Local context matters in planning cities

OPINION: Arbitrary citywide rezonings undermine livability, affordability and sustainability

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, October 30, 2021

Referral Report - Streamlining Rental Around Local Shopping Area

City of Vancouver eligibility map for rezoning up to 6 storey rental apartments on and off arterials, called Streamlining Rental Housing, goes to public hearing November 2, 2021. Source: City of Vancouver


There are many different ways that needed city growth can be accommodated. To achieve positive outcomes that avoid negative impacts on the climate, affordability and livability, growth needs to be managed very carefully. This requires a holistic approach to planning that considers the local context of each neighbourhood.

However, Vancouver continues arbitrary citywide rezonings without neighbourhood context. The Vancouver Plan just implements the previous council’s initiatives without any meaningful planning process.

One of the “quick starts” of Vancouver Plan, going to public hearing on November 2, is called Streamlining Rental Housing . This citywide rezoning of up to 6 storeys is for rentals in all C2 zoned shopping areas and pre-approved spot rezonings on-arterials and off-arterials in single detached housing RS/RT zones. These can include multiple site assemblies of up to a full block per project, without limits on numbers of projects in any area. This has no neighbourhood context, no notification of affected residents, nor consideration of the accumulated affects of other development that may be happening in these areas. Continue reading

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Vancouver Plan is a sham

Common Ground Magazine – October 2020

by Elizabeth Murphy

Midway in the civic election cycle, Vancouver continues the policies of the decimated Vision council in spite of the current Council’s attempt to steer a new direction through a city-wide plan. The Vancouver Plan has been hijacked as a COVID recovery program to advance unrelenting spot rezoning for the foreseeable future, without proper planning.

Housing affordability is the main issue in Vancouver. But staff ranked it as the fifth of ten goals in the Vancouver Plan, based primarily on input from special interest groups. The first goal is reconciliation through decolonization, even though reconciliation is a federal responsibility.

Start perhaps with decolonizing the American takeover of city hall.

Gregor Robertson was an NDP MLA installed as the Vision mayor in 2008 by American investor Joel Solomon and the developer lobby. Senior city staff have since been dominated by American recruits, such as city manager Sadhu Johnson.

The major turnover of staff in the last decade has resulted in loss of institutional memory. This has been particularly problematic in the planning department, as the formerly renowned high standards for urban design and liveability are being targeted and dismantled as impediments to unlimited redevelopment.

An example is our built heritage, which is most of the older more affordable buildings. As these are demolished and replaced by more expensive new construction that displaced people cannot afford, it inflates land values, which in turn increases unaffordability and homelessness. Redevelopment also increases the ecological footprint. Continue reading

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Vancouver’s COVID-19 Response

It’s time for Vancouver to pause and pivot

OPINION: Urban design and livability are an important part of sustainability and should not be sacrificed for expediency.

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, August 22, 2020

Construction cranes tower above condos under construction near southeast False Creek in Vancouver. DARRYL DYCK / PNG


Dr. Bonnie Henry said at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown “this is our time to be kind, to be calm, and to be safe.” In contrast, the City of Vancouver carried on with an all-time record for controversial rezoning public hearings in the month of July, sometimes multiple council meetings in a day, under virtual council with reduced democratic processes through the state of emergency provisions.

Meanwhile, recent data disclosed by city staff show that there has been more new dwellings produced than household growth since 2001, and that there are enough new projects in-application for the next decades of projected population growth to come. This shows there is no legitimate reason for the city’s current rush to rezone without proper planning.

July rezonings included the most controversial public hearing for the 28 storeys at Birch and Broadway, with about 1,000 written submissions, including three petitions of thousands in opposition, and multiple days of speakers.

Another controversial public hearing for rezoning all the C2 zones city-wide went multiple days, including hearing from speakers on a Friday night, which is generally avoided. Thankfully, a majority of council supported Coun. Adrian Carr’s amendment to refer the rezoning report to the Vancouver Plan process.

Rather than just implementing the arbitrary city-wide programs and policies of the previous Vision council that was voted out, it is about time that the new council reconsiders policy based on the new context and a new mandate.

A council-approved motion by Coun. Colleen Hardwick has done exactly that. It directed staff to provide data by July 31 for a recalibration this fall of the current housing targets.

From the data provided by staff, it confirmed the census population growth was about one per cent per year, or 5,500 people. At the census average of 2.2 persons per unit, that is 2,500 units per year or 25,000 units per decade. Compare this to the city’s current housing targets of 72,000 units per decade, at almost three times the actual census population growth rates.

Also of interest is the staff admission that the housing targets are aspirational and not a reflection of anticipated population growth. In fact, previous census figures show that there have been more dwelling units than population growth for households, with thousands unoccupied that may be converted to rentals due to taxes and market shifts. Current projects in-application are already enough for decades in further population growth, with over 36,000 units, of which 28,000 are condos. This growth doesn’t include secondary suites, laneway, infill or duplexes. Or any existing zoned capacity.

So this raises the question why the rush to rezone without first doing the proper planning required. Continue reading

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Vancouver Housing Policies

New direction in housing policies needed

OPINION: Renovating existing homes can accommodate growth

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, August 31, 2019

Artist’s rendering of a 14-storey tower proposed at Broadway and Alma St.


For a decade, the top issue in Vancouver has been housing affordability. Yet every policy response from the City of Vancouver has not improved the situation, in fact making it progressively worse. We can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. That is the definition of insanity.

Ending homelessness has not been achieved and has increased by multiples. The contagion spread to price out almost every income bracket. The exponential growth and supply economics has proven to be a dismal failure as the older more affordable housing is demolished and replaced with new, more expensive stock. Yet we see these policies continue to play out as history repeats itself.

In the Great Recession of winter 2009, Vancouver’s new Vision council was dealing with most large condo developments being cancelled. Many developers were considering building rentals instead of condos since the market was entirely stalled for strata.

Then-mayor Gregor Robertson was looking to partner with the development industry on rental housing. This was the first evolution of the Vision rental incentive programs called Short Term Incentives for Rental (STIR).

Ironically, this was initiated through industry consultation in a graveyard. So began the death of liveable Vancouver.

A large meeting was held with the biggest players of the development and real estate industry at the city-owned Mountain View Cemetery’s just completed architectural modernist crematorium. Only a few token “others” were invited, including myself.

Driving up the heavily guarded graveyard roadways that were lined with luxury cars, it was an indication of what to expect at the meeting. The industry attendees had their calculators out and directly demanded that the city officials get to the point. How much of a density and height bonus was the city prepared to approve?

The resulting STIR program created large controversial projects such as 1401 Comox St. in the West End and the Rize at Broadway and Kingsway. These and other STIR projects were grossly out of scale with the surrounding communities.

In January 2012, then-director of planning Brent Toderian, outlined the problems with the STIR program: huge height and density increases of mostly strata condos were used to secure very few rental units; waived amenity contributions; and STIR rents were high.

The program was then cancelled and replaced with the Secured Market Rental Housing Policy, and Rental 100. This would be 100-per-cent rental and limited to six storeys, but generally still out of scale with surrounding areas, with waived amenity contributions and unaffordable rents.

The high rents from these programs have inflated market rents generally and also set precedents for land inflation, with increased development expectations in surrounding areas.

Then in 2018, in the dying days of the Vision council, they initiated another rental program to attempt to include affordable rents. The Moderate Income Rental Housing Program (MIRHP) is currently being carried forward by the city under the new council. Continue reading

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Vision 2.0

Vancouver under the influence

By Elizabeth Murphy, Common Ground Magazine, July 2019

The same outside influences established under the former Vision-dominated council continue to drive Vancouver city policy


The results of the last civic election in October 2018 were a clear signal that the public wanted change, but what started out with so much hope has given us more of the same. The Vision dominated council was eliminated but their policies continue. Campaign finance reform has not removed the influences of the big money unions and developers, while the old Vision-appointed staff continue to guide the process.

The recent launch of the City-wide Plan is a case in point. The outline of the four year planning process was publicly posted only days before it went to council – with no prior public input. At the time of writing, the council decision was delayed, but the proposed planning direction was clear.

As outlined, the planning process is little more than a data-mining exercise while continuing the policies and programs established by Vision. Things are going in this direction because the same background influences driving the previous council are still in play, despite many good intentions to change this.

Although Mayor Kennedy Stewart ran as an independent, as a former federal NDP Member of Parliament he came with party ties and endorsement from the Vancouver and District Labour Council (VDLC).

Provincial campaign reform did not include adequate third-party restrictions for municipal elections, essentially creating the equivalent of US-style “super-PACs” that do not have to disclose political funding outside of the six week election period.

The influence of the development industry continues as well. Stewart has had a series of ten meetings with former councillor Raymond Louie and the major developers he is advocating for. These include Ian Gillespie of Westbank Projects Corporation, Bruno and Peter Wall of Wall Financial Corporation, and Brian McCauley of Concert Properties. Stewart also had lunch with Bob Rennie and met with Ryan Beedie of Beedie Development Group.

Similar to former mayor Gregor Robertson, Mayor Stewart recently cited how the city is working with their developer “partners” on building new rentals. He then voted down a motion to protect existing rentals in commercial zones to discourage displacement through demolition.

Although Mayor Stewart doesn’t have a council majority, the Vision-appointed (largely American) senior staff guide the new council to continue with old policies.

The procedure bylaw and code of conduct rules are used to muzzle individual councillors, advisory committees, and even the public. Criticism of how city staff interprets the narrative, data, analysis, assumptions or intentions of city policy are met with hostility, censorship and reprimands that closes down full discussion. Continue reading

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Neighbourhoods vs. Corridors

The Costs of Corridors

OPINION: Each neighbourhood is distinct and different in how they have evolved over time so need to be planned in that kind of context

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, July 6, 2019

The project at Broadway and Birch at the former Denny’s site was previously approves as a 16 storey tower, but is now proposed to go to 28 storeys, Elizabeth Murphy notes. _____________________________________________________________

Vancouver was established on a grid pattern of arterials for streetcars (replaced by trolley buses) to serve separate and distinct neighbourhoods across the city. Each neighbourhood was designed to be walkable and transit oriented, with a commercial street, schools and parks.

But current planning directions are undermining these historic patters by massive land-use corridors like the Cambie corridor and now the Broadway corridor. It is an enormous mistake at a high public cost.

The Broadway corridor land-use planning is now underway in anticipation of a subway from VCC-Clark Millennium Line station to Arbutus and Broadway, even though it could be a decade away from completion. The boundaries for land-use planning are Clark Drive to Vine Street, and 16th Avenue to 1st Avenue. It crosses multiple neighbourhoods that are broken up into sub-areas, that do not fully follow historic neighbourhood boundaries.

For example, the neighbourhood of South Granville, with its many heritage rental apartment blocks, goes from Burrard Street to Oak Street but is not defined as a sub-area of the corridor. It instead is split between Kitsilano and Fairview South.

The city recently had walking tours as part of the Broadway corridor planning process. On a tour of the sub-area they call Kitsilano South (that includes South Granville to Granville Street), the planning staff who guided it were very nice young planners but were mostly not from here and did not understand the historical context of neighbourhood boundaries. Clearly institutional memory is being lost due to senior staff turnover.

The planners did not understand why it was important to distinguish Burrard Street as the boundary of Kitsilano that divides between the RT duplex zoning in Kitsilano and RM apartment zoning in South Granville.

Why this matters is that these neighbourhoods are distinct and different in how they have evolved over time so need to be planned in that kind of context. This is what the city-wide plan is supposed to do, however, large portions of the city are being taken out of that process and instead planned as part of a corridor.

The city-wide plan is looking like it will just be an implementation of the former Vision council’s policies and programs at a cost of $20 million. It will not be determining what the people who live and work here want for their neighbourhood like the previous CityPlan program. Quite the opposite.

If a subway is extended to UBC, the Broadway corridor is proposed to include all of Kitsilano and West Point Grey as well. Staff are redefining corridor planning as being neighbourhood-based when that is not the case.

Each neighbourhood should be able to have its own land-use planning response to transit. Instead, the tail is wagging the dog as transit is dictating a land-use typology regardless of neighbourhood context.

Planning for the future needs to start with what exists now and who lives and works in the city. Displacement should be avoided as much as possible since the older more affordable housing will be demolished and replaced with more expensive new construction of both rental or strata. Displacement has the domino effect of the most vulnerable people being put at risk of homelessness. Continue reading

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Housing Strategy

Vancouver growth targets don’t add up

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, June 7, 2019


The current Vision agenda needs to change if we are to have an affordable sustainable future for the people who live and work here in Vancouver.  Elizabeth Murphy _____________________________________________________________

Vancouver’s housing strategy is based on population growth targets that are much higher than projections that census data would justify. City policies, programs and budget are based on faulty underlying assumptions. These unit projections were high even during the housing market expansion and do not reflect the current market correction. The housing strategy needs to be reconsidered.

The former Vision council approved these directions before being tossed in October’s election. Yet the new council has approved the plans and policies set in place, including the budget to implement them. Staff have been pushing through their agenda by guiding a mostly inexperienced council with advice that continues to be blindly followed.

An exception is Coun. Colleen Hardwick, who has been raising questions of staff at council meetings regarding the disconnect between unit targets and projected population growth.

The last census in 2016 showed a population increase for the city of about 28,000 people from 2011 to 2016 at a total of 631,500 people. Total private dwellings were 309,000 (including 25,500 unoccupied or occupied by temporary residents) with an average household size of 2.2 persons per unit. That averages 5600 people per year over one of the highest housing growth periods in Vancouver’s history.

Even if the population growth continued at this pace for the next 10 years it would only mean 56,000 more people. At 2.2 persons per unit that should be 26,000 more units.

However, the city’s targets for the next 10-year period is for 72,000 more units. That is more units than the 56,000 new people, if increases kept up with recent growth trends and almost three times the number of units that would be reasonably justified by population projections.

So in summary, the city is targeting to add 72,000 more units from 2017 to 2027, while population projections only justify 26,000 units. Vancouver’s housing strategy is based on this fundamentally flawed assumption. Continue reading

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Broadway BS-Line report raises questions

Better, more cost effective options than SkyTrain to UBC should be considered

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, March 25, 2019

A Broadway subway would be more about condo development like that on the Cambie corridor than it is about transporting people. Photo Elizabeth Murphy _____________________________________________________________

The recent McElhanney Consulting draft report used to justify a Broadway subway extension of the SkyTrain Millennium Line to UBC raises many questions regarding SNC-Lavalin involvement, assumptions, costs, ridership, mode shift and development. As a draft that has yet to be signed off by the engineers who wrote it, there are elements that look like it has been adjusted into a public relations document to favour a subway. This report is an update of the 2012 report prepared by SNC-Lavalin and Steer Davies Gleave.

However, on Jan. 30, 2019, before the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal broke in February, Vancouver council was rushed into endorsing SkyTrain technology for a subway extension to the University of B.C. based on the theory that with the federal budget fast approaching in an election year it was critical to move ahead immediately. Same with the TransLink Mayors’ Council.

But now we know there is not likely new federal funding in the 2019 budget for the project, so the rush was unwarranted.

SkyTrain is what TransLink calls the Vancouver regional rail system. It is made up of two types of technology: the Canada Line, which is conventional, and the Expo and Millennium Lines, which are unconventional.

The unconventional Millennium Line technology would apply to the proposed extension to UBC, of which SNC-Lavalin (track and electrics) and Bombardier (cars) partnered to build the SkyTrain Millennium Line and continue to still produce and maintain the systems now in use.

SNC-Lavalin, with Bombardier cars, would therefore likely have significant advantage over other bidders for any extension of the Millennium Line, and it puts into question the ability to get meaningfully competitive bids. In the Canada Line-Cambie merchant court case, then-B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Pitfield called the bidding process where SNC-Lavalin won the contract a “charade.” Continue reading

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Broadway Subway, the BS-Line

No one should consider the UBC subway a done deal

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, February 24, 2019

What $7 billion buys in modern surface tram at $50 million per km. rather than only the Broadway subway from VCC to UBC. For illustrative purposes only. Illustration by Kathryn Mandell. (UBC Prof. Patrick Condon)_____________________________________________________________

Although TransLink’s Mayors’ Council has approved preliminary planning for the extension of the Broadway subway to the University of B.C. (the BS-Line), this is far from a done deal. The unfolding corruption scandal at SNC-Lavalin and the company’s proprietary role in SkyTrain technology puts this Millennium Line extension in question. The underlying assumptions that have been used to justify the subway also do not add up, regarding projections of growth, ridership or technology performance of various options.

The recommendations for a SkyTrain subway to UBC are based on a report that updates the 2012 SNC-Lavalin/Steer Davies Gleave report. Since SNC-Lavalin is the main supplier of SkyTrain throughout the region, it is not surprising SkyTrain was their recommendation, and since the current update is based on the 2012 report, it would come to the same conclusion again.

The Expo and Millennium Lines are a proprietary unconventional railway, of which the technical patents are owned by Bombardier and the engineering patents owned by SNC-Lavalin.

“Only seven lines have been built in almost 40 years, with only three seriously used for urban transport. Why is Metro Vancouver now the only region in the world that continues to build with SkyTrain?” asks Malcolm Johnson of the group Rail for the Valley.

Given SNC-Lavalin’s proprietary rights for SkyTrain technology and its ongoing criminal prosecution for fraud and corruption that could result in a ban from bidding on government projects in Canada, the mayors requested confirmation that other companies beside SNC-Lavalin could competitively provide SkyTrain technology.

SNC-Lavalin is already banned from bidding on Word Bank projects due to corruption, and Bombardier is also being investigated.

There also are the questionable underlying assumptions of growth and ridership projections used to justify a SkyTrain subway.

Simple solutions that could be implemented immediately have been avoided to reinforce the narrative that a subway on Broadway is the only option to serve ridership to UBC and that the system is already at capacity. Commuters have been held hostage for over a decade to justify this scheme. Continue reading

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Reconsidering Vancouver’s Subway

Region needs to reconsider Broadway subway to UBC

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, February 03, 2019

Proposed SkyTrain line from Arbutus to UBC is a waste of money and would cause unwanted and unnecessary real-estate development, says planning advocate Elizabeth Murphy. Francis Georgian / PNG


The Broadway subway line to UBC, with the appropriate acronym the “BS-Line,” has been accepted by Vancouver council, based on a consultant’s report some question as being more of a political document than a technical report. Within a week of release and with no public consultation, only two councillors voted against it, Colleen Hardwick and Jean Swanson.

The recent Vancouver civic election showed the public’s desire for a change in direction. An upcoming citywide planning process is intended to deliver that change, including to reconsider the Transportation 2040 plan. But now that the subway to UBC has been accepted by council — and the policies of the ousted Vision Vancouver government remain in place — that will predetermine the land use across the city and make the citywide planning process nothing more than implementation of a predetermined outcome of tower luxury condos like at Oakridge and along the Cambie corridor.

Last-minute council amendments for collaborative consultation after the fact is meaningless when funding partners such as the University of B.C., Jericho Lands and other developers are expected to contribute based on density bonuses to pay for the subway rather than public amenities. It’s not what most people had in mind.

Using what author Naomi Klein has described as disaster capitalism, Mayor Kennedy Stewart backed by Vision-appointed city staff, framed the need to pre-empt the planning process by insisting that there is only a small window of opportunity to get federal funding in an election year.

However, the federal government is nowhere near ready to approve where the infrastructure money will go across Canada. Vancouver is already getting a large amount of federal funding currently allocated for transit while they are lining up against other cities that have none. More funding is not likely to be a priority to a government wanting to spread it around in an election year.

Now the region is being pressured into approving the technology of subway/SkyTrain to UBC. Many regional mayors have raised concerns about equity, given that Vancouver already has a lot of transit infrastructure and about $3 billion of new transit funding recently allocated, while many municipalities have little to none. Continue reading

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Property Taxes 2019

Municipal taxes in Vancouver: the good, the bad and the ugly

By Elizabeth Murphy, Business in Vancouver, Thursday January 24, 2019

The October 2018 election in the city of Vancouver resulted in a decisive vote for change that ended Vision Vancouver’s decade-long majority as the party was entirely eliminated from council.

One of the first tasks of the new council was to address the 2019 budget and taxes. The result delivered a mix of news – the good, the bad and the ugly.

First the good news. Finally, Vancouver is standing up to the province to oppose its recent encroachment on the municipal tax base. The B.C. school tax surcharge is scheduled for collection in July 2019. Unlike the previous council majority, which neglected to protect the city’s interests, the new council has taken action.

New Coun. Rebecca Bligh, a young renter on the east side, brought forward a motion to council to oppose the surcharge. The motion noted the many concerns about the surcharge. Among them: it is not based on the ability to pay; many people with rentals or certain levels of debt financing do not qualify for a deferral; it could cause a tax revolt; and the province can use its own income tax base instead.

The $250 million in expected revenue from the surcharge could instead be raised by a 0.25% increase applied to the top income tax bracket. This would mean that a taxpayer with a net income of less than $150,000 per year would pay no additional income tax while someone earning a net income of $250,000 per year would pay only $250 in additional income tax.

Supported by the Non-Partisan Association and the Green Party of Vancouver, the minority council voted for the mayor to send a letter to the province requesting that B.C. withdraw the school tax surcharge. Even though Mayor Kennedy Stewart voted against the motion, he sent the letter as directed by council.

Other municipalities have also raised concerns. Even those who may not be significantly affected now realize that this precedent will affect them in the future, either through inflation over time or through criteria adjustments that cover more properties. Pressure is mounting on the province to withdraw this flawed, ideologically based scheme.

However, there is also the bad and the ugly in the 2019 city finances. The budget has now been approved by council, with significant increases that allow for implementation of the Vision policies and programs that are still in place. Continue reading

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City hall change or status quo

Vision-appointed staff at Vancouver City Hall blocking change voters demanded

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, Saturday, January 11, 2019

The new council approved initiating a citywide plan that was a central part of the election campaign as a move away from the Vision planning regime. However, it is looking like staff are leading this toward just a new way to implement current Vision policy.


Although the Vision Vancouver council majority was wiped out in the last civic election, their staff machine lives on. It is clear from staff’s actions over the last few months that the meaningful and substantial policy changes that the public voted for will not happen as long as current management is retained.

So far, except for minor tinkering, the Vision budget, zoning and policies all remain in place. The upcoming citywide plan looks increasingly like it will be implementing all the Vision policy that is still in effect.

One sure way to put a downer on a social gathering is to point that out. Most people voted for meaningful change, but that is not what we are getting and the public is baffled as to why. “Didn’t we finally vote out those people?” is a common response.

But as to be expected with a mostly new council, councillors are substantially dependent on advice from staff. That advice steers them to effectively the status quo.

Two examples are the approval of the 2019 budget and the motion to reconsider the last-minute RS zoning amendments of the last council during the election.

The 2019 budget was drafted by the previous Vision council. It continues their practice of providing a narrative of how the budget fulfills the council objectives rather than a transparent line-by-line budget as was provided a decade ago.

Rather than delaying and reconsidering the Vision budget in detail to determine if it fits with new priorities, it was approved substantially as proposed with only minor tinkering. Some questions from councillors to staff on program details were framed with accusations of bullying rather than encouraging openness and discussion. Requests for delay to reconsider the budget were met with claims of urgency even though the budget doesn’t need to be approved until the spring.

The Vision policy agenda is essentially funded now for the next year. Continue reading

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Developers’ YIMBY Lobby

Vancouver must stop allowing the development community to set the agenda

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, Saturday December 14, 2018


This last Vancouver civic election in October was the first under new campaign finance rules that were intended to remove corporate and union big money influence from civic governance. What we learned is that this influence still prevails through the lack of third-party controls. The public clearly voted for change, but because some of the dark money remains, it is unclear how much we will meaningfully move in a different direction this term.

Since third-party campaign finance rules only applied during the six-week election period, it gives broad licence for third parties to be unregulated throughout the rest of the four-year term. Some of this was obvious.

The Vancouver and District Labour Council was very public in its support of a slate. Developers were less transparent in support of candidates, such as the $85,000 donation by developer Peter Wall for billboards promoting Hector Bremner’s Yes Vancouver party just before the third-party controls came into effect for the election period. This was exposed by the media.

So the big money continues to flow into campaigns. And it is even darker and less transparent than before, with multiple sources of third parties, most of whom the public are completely unaware.

One of these political action groups is modelled on the San Francisco “Yes-In-My-Back-Yard” (YIMBY) group. Realtor Bob Rennie endorsed the first of these groups in June 2016 speech to the Urban Development Institute titled, We have to change the narrative.

In the speech, Rennie said that San Francisco’s pro-housing groups that advocate at council for housing projects were the model needed to change the narrative in Vancouver. Sonja Trauss, the founder of the Bay Area Renters Federation, BARF, had a mantra that you have to support building even when it’s a type of building you hate. She said, “Is it ugly? Get over yourself. Is it low-income housing in your neighbourhood? Get over yourself. Is it luxury? Get over yourself.” Trauss continues, “We really need everything right now.”

The groups started to appear simultaneously with the UDI speech in June 2016, first as a twitter account “YVR-YIMBY.” They tweeted “Inspired by SF-BARF … VOMIT — Vancouver Objective: Mass Infill and Transit.”

In March 2017, the institute brought Trauss to Vancouver for a seminar. “Today Sonja gave us a game plan,” Anne McMullin, president and CEO, said in a media release.

For more than two years, these industry supported groups have been active on social media and advocating at city hall. They claim to represent Millennials, but the new housing they promote is generally unaffordable to young people while what they can afford is being demolished. Continue reading

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Vision’s ghost still lingers

Vancouver City Hall staff shouldn’t ignore clear voter support to rescind flawed rezoning

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, Saturday, November 23, 2018

Character houses can be converted into multiple units rather than being demolished for more expensive new duplexes. Photo: Elizabeth Murphy


Although Vision Vancouver was wiped off city council in last month’s civic election, its influence is still being felt. Current policy approved by Vision is still in play as the staff who implemented it are moving ahead with that agenda. Although some effort has been made by the new council to correct this, staff are putting up false barriers to moving in a new direction.

For example, Coun. Colleen Hardwick recently put forward a motion to rescind the unsupported RS-zoning amendments implemented citywide without public consultation in Vision’s dying days. Although Hardwick supports duplexes in principle (she even lives in one), she recognizes there are many better ways to implement them than what was approved.

But when the new council asked staff for advice on how to proceed, the answer was spun to undermine the motion.

At first, staff misrepresent the way the zoning amendments were implemented. They claim that there was extensive public consultation when in fact there was none that was meaningful. The city consulted with the public on whether there is a housing crisis which, of course, they concluded there was. But the specific actions to rezone for outright duplexes citywide had zero meaningful consultation with the public, only with some industry input.

There are many different ways to allow for population growth and required services but the specifics of the RS zoning amendments are not in the public interest nor with public support. For context it must be remembered that even before this recent duplex amendment there has been no single family zoning in Vancouver since secondary suites were added in 2004 and laneway houses in 2009, so there already were three units allowed on RS-zoned lots. Continue reading

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Vancouver votes for change

Vision’s reign of error finally ends

The city budget has ballooned over the last decade, much higher than population growth would justify.

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, Monday, October 29, 2018

Vancouver City Hall will have a very mixed council with no clear majority.

Vision Vancouver, having pushed though their failed agenda for the last decade, was wiped off city council in the Oct. 20 election. They exit leaving an affordability crisis, record homelessness, unsustainable development policies and a ballooning debt and tax burden. But Vision’s developer backers prospered well.

The public has made a clear and decisive vote for change. It’s about time.

The only remnants that remain of the party are those who didn’t run under the Vision name. Mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart, an “independent,” only won by less than 1,000 votes. He has no council majority or mandate to implement his policies that mirror Vision’s.

Stewart talks to the media as if he represents council opinion, but that is far from the case. Only one of the councillors for One City, Christine Boyle, has a similar platform to his.

Both the Greens and NPA voted against the controversial recent city-wide RS rezonings, and they both have made significant gains in the election, in part because of this stand.

The Greens elected nine of their 10 candidates, with a substantial breakthrough on council from one to three councillors. Two of whom got the most votes, more than the mayor by a significant amount. The NPA won five seats on council, with their mayoral candidate Ken Sim coming close. And one seat for COPE’s Jean Swanson. It’s a very mixed council with no majority.

The yes-in-my-backyard crowd have made lots of noise on Twitter, but they counted for few actual votes. They don’t represent the millennials’ interests, as they claim, mainly just the development industry that endorses and funds them. In 2016, Bob Rennie encouraged the YIMBYs advocating for development in San Francisco to be replicated here.

Based on platforms and the campaign, the votes on council will likely vary depending on the issue. Stewart can’t take anything for granted.

The lame-duck, outgoing Vision council is bringing the final citywide RS rezoning bylaw for approval on Oct. 30. Despite Stewart’s support for the rezoning, the new council could repeal it a few weeks later at the next public hearing opportunity. Continue reading

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Election 2018

Vancouver Civic Election 2018 Slate

This is a critical election. There is finally an opportunity for a big change at city hall with most incumbents not running again. We need a new direction from Vision’s failed decade in power.

The challenge is that there are too many people and parties running for office. Many have good intentions, but will not likely be elected and are only splitting the vote. Unfortunate.

Many people have been asking what to do. Here is a slate with rationale that I support below.

The Character House Network has people from across the political spectrum concerned about the unsustainable and wasteful demolitions across the city. This is a root cause of the affordability crisis: demolishing of the older more affordable housing stock and replacing it with more expensive new construction.

The current Vision council has failed to do anything about this and their policies have only made it worse. Growth and improved affordability could be achieved much more sustainably while retaining neighbourhood character and allowing new development where appropriate. People who live and work here need to be properly and meaningfully involved in the process.


 Election Candidates 2018: Character House Network Slate

The following slate for the Oct. 20, 2018 civic election is intended to guide those who care about saving character houses and the neighbourhoods throughout the city. Below is a basic slate for consideration with rationale.

MAYOR:   SIM, Ken (NPA)  


  • CARR, Adriane (Green)
  • FRY, Pete (Green)
  • WIEBE, Michael (Green)
  • WONG, David (Green)
  • HARDWICK, Colleen (NPA)
  •  NOBLE, Penny (Independent)


  • MACKINNON, Stuart (Green)
  • DEMERS, Dave (Green)
  • DUMONT, Camil (Green)


  • FRASER, Janet   (Green)
  • GONZALEZ, Estrellita (Green)
  • CHAN-PEDLEY, Lois (Green)


Current city councillor Adriane Carr (Green) has been an early and consistent supporter of character house retention. Greens recognize that the greenest policies are those that allow for adaptive reuse of existing character buildings, including for more affordable suites, strata and infill. Because of this record, we support the whole Green slate.

The Vision dominated council has had a decade to stop the demolitions, but instead has just made it much worse. And recent rezonings without any community consultations show this would continue. The two “independent ” mayoral candidates, Kennedy Stewart and Shauna Sylvester, are both related to Vision and their policies reflect more of the same, so not viable options. One City is also the same.

The other front running mayoral candidate is Ken Sim (NPA). He has confirmed that he supports policies that meaningfully retain character houses. He would revise zoning and building bylaws to make it easier to retain character houses or renovate, and that the recent rezonings would be reconsidered with character retention as part of community consultation and planning.

Colleen Hardwick (NPA) is strongly committed to character house retention as part of planning for growth within a sustainable city, supported by a more affordable surface electric transit network than the unsustainable subway and towers.

Penny Noble (Independent) has been part of the Character House Network and is committed to the cause.

Slate Options:

The above is a small base slate so that those who want to can either vote just for these candidates or there is room to add more from the NPA, other parties, or independents. Lots to choose from. Be mindful of vote splitting. At minimum, please vote for all the Greens.

But mainly it is important to vote. Advance voting is until Wed. Oct. 17, with election day on Sat. Oct. 20.

Find out more here.

Please consider signing the Character House Network petition here.

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Jane Jacobs’ wisdom needed now

Vancouver voters need to think about the city they want before they vote

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, Tuesday, October 9, 2018

This heritage house was recently demolished that could have instead provided for more units and infill, argues planning activist and private project manager Elizabeth Murphy.


Vancouver became renowned for participatory community planning based on the principles of Jane Jacobs. But over the last decade, this reputation has become undeserved. There has been a shift from a sustainable complex city of neighbourhoods for people to bland density obsession for the benefit of developers. Vancouver has lost its way.

Jacobs’ influential writing was central to stopping major highway and urban renewal that was destroying inner-city neighbourhoods in the 1960s. She stopped the Lower Manhattan Expressway through her neighbourhood of Greenwich Village in New York City, the Spadina Expressway when she moved to Toronto and this also inspired the 1970s cancellation of Vancouver’s proposed highway through Grandview, Strathcona, Chinatown, Gastown and the waterfront.

This set Vancouver on a new sustainable path based on Jacobs’ principles of neighbourhood-based participatory planning.

Prior to 2007, the planning process in Vancouver included meaningful involvement from the people who lived here, such as CityPlan and earlier Local Area Planning. This was a basic principle that resulted in a sustainable mix of neighbourhoods that focused on social capital. However, the shift over the last decade from livability to growth, at both the regional and civic level, has resulted in housing primarily as a commodity that has caused a severe affordability crisis and increased homelessness.

Globalization has only made this worse as over-development has been consumed by inflationary forces that locals cannot compete with. Yet those who live here are increasingly being excluded from the decision making process that is dominated by the development industry that benefits through their control of city council.

Recent citywide rezonings are a case in point. Without community consultation, the outgoing Vision council is forcing through rezonings that affect the majority of the city right before an election when few are running for office again. Adriane Carr (Greens) and the NPA voted against the rezoning while Hector Bremner (of Yes Vancouver) voted with Vision for the rezoning.

The reasons why this approach is failing Vancouver are many. In simple terms, it is because we are demolishing the older more affordable housing and replacing it with new, more expensive units that most locals cannot afford. So as rezoning increases outright supply, this cycle continues. Continue reading

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2018 Civic Election:

Vancouver: To change or not to change 

By Elizabeth Murphy, Common Ground Magazine, October 1, 2018

The 2018 civic election has an opportunity for change, with most incumbents not running again. The question is: will the new council lead a new course in direction or just be more of the same? There is hope for the former. 

The current Vision dominated council is ending its decade in power with a dismal record. But this election could mean a new direction if people become informed and vote.

The initial good intentions of Vision were undermined from the first term they controlled council in 2008. Big campaign donations from both unions and developers were how these influences set us on an unsustainable path. Vancouver now has record homelessness, an affordability crisis, unsustainable demolition of older more affordable buildings, replaced by more expensive luxury units for the global market that most people who live here cannot afford.

The city has been reversing decades of practice for community participatory planning that Vancouver used to be highly regarded for. Now the institutional memory is being lost as the experienced staff are hollowed out. No longer are citizens consulted as citywide rezonings are imposed that makes the character of each neighbourhood dissolve into banality with locals displaced and priced out.

Vision’s majority council are responsible for the last decade. Although only one of the current Vision council is running this election and “apparently” no mayor, they are still working to get a majority to continue this abysmal record of destruction. So called “independent” mayoralty candidates such as Kennedy Stewart and Shauna Sylvester are either from or surrounded by the forces that brought in Vision. With the further support of One City, this same crowd would have the numbers to continue dominating the city.

The one shining light on council has been Adriane Carr of the Vancouver Greens, who topped the polls in the last election. She has supported genuine citizen involvement and sustainable options that would retain character buildings while allowing for more affordable options for growth. This is where we need to go.

And although the Greens are not running a majority nor a mayoralty candidate, they have a quality team of four for council, and three each for Park Board and School Board. We need them all elected.

The big question is who will also work for a change in direction. There are many options, perhaps too many. And although many are good people, will any get elected in such a split broad field. When the public are confused, they tend to go with familiar names.

Read More…

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Rezoning undermines affordability and character

Vancouver city hall is slamming through destructive new zoning without giving citizens a say

The City of Vancouver is on a mad rush job to rezone 68,000 properties across the city, including Kitsilano and Cedar Cottage, in a move that will only benefit developers.

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, Monday, Sept. 14, 2018

Broadway will soon experience development similar to what is happening along the Cambie Corridor, which is mostly unaffordable, argues project manager and former city property development officer Elizabeth Murphy.


Recent information on the costs of transit and utility upgrades for growth raise concerns and questions. What is becoming clearer is how much the public is being asked to subsidize the transit providers and development industries that benefit from these plans while making life less affordable, livable and sustainable for people.

Neighbourhoods are being rezoned in an incompetent, mad rush to accommodate this growth agenda — most of which is unaffordable and unnecessary to meet population growth — without community involvement or adequate consideration of the impacts on finances, society or the environment. This is not in the public interest. Continue reading

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High costs raise questions on growth

City’s high housing growth rate making homes less affordable

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, Saturday, Sept.1, 2018

Marine Drive and Cambie Street is part of the Cambie corridor plan that requires $750 million in utility upgrades as part of the billions of dollars of upgrades required for city-wide growth. Elizabeth Murphy


After more than a decade of high levels of growth in the city of Vancouver, we can now see what that is achieving. The results are record homelessness, an affordability crisis, inflated land values and unsustainable demolitions. But on top of that we are only now being given a peak under the hood at what the costs of servicing that growth will be. And it is enormous.

In July, the city approved a report on city-wide utilities financing growth strategy and a Cambie corridor utilities servicing plan. It disclosed, in somewhat of an opaque and incomplete way, anticipated growth and the costs to service that growth that is in the billions of dollars. It also posed some significant environmental sustainability issues that had not previously been raised by the city and puts in question the current growth agenda. Continue reading

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City-wide rezoning without consultation

Unprecedented rezoning rush continues

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, Saturday, August 4, 2018

Vancouver city councillor Adriane Carr. Gerry Kahrman/PNG


The City of Vancouver continues its rush to rezone city-wide without a prior public consultation process, counter to standard practice. Their clear objective is to push everything through in advance of the civic election in October. Since most of the current council are not running for re-election, they are not accountable for the transformative changes. The many calls for these decisions to be made by the next council is falling on deaf ears.

On the heels of a massive number of reports brought to council in June, the last few weeks in July has proven to continue that trend while most citizens are away on summer holidays. After a break in August while council is shut down, the unprecedented number of public hearing dates reserved for September looks daunting.

The most substantial city-wide rezoning is of all the RS-zoned detached residential areas. Plus they are rezoning all the RT7 / RT8 character retention duplex zones in Kitsilano, mostly located north of Broadway and 4th Ave. to the waterfront. These both have now been referred to public hearings in September without public consultation. Continue reading

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Property surcharge against municipal interests

B.C. property surtax undermines municipal tax base

By Elizabeth Murphy, Business in Vancouver, July 12, 2018

Graph source: Metro Vancouver report 2016.

The B.C. provincial government’s proposed property tax surcharge encroaches onto the municipal tax base.

The B.C. take of 40% will increase to 70% and more as it escalates on higher-value properties. This precedent-setting tax grab also makes life less affordable for both owners and renters, so it needs reconsideration.

Property taxes are the main source of revenue for municipalities to cover civic services. But rather than using its own provincial tax base, such as the progressive top bracket of income taxes, the government has chosen to impose a new surcharge on property taxes. It is a provincial tax grab of the municipal tax base. Continue reading

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Rezoning increases the divide

Rezoning inflates land values – undermines affordability

By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun, Monday, July 2, 2018

City of Vancouver maps from 2016 show how ‘hot’ properties that inflated beyond the average are distributed across the city. They closely reflect the areas of the city that have undergone planning programs for increasing density and the resulting speculative inflation.


The City of Vancouver passed reports at council last month to rezone across the city without public consultation. As this council’s failed decade of policy has shown, rezoning inflates land values, which is at the root of the affordability problem. Proposed actions to be considered in July will just make this worse as it further increases the affordability crisis they claim to be resolving.

With only three business days to respond, the public got their first look at 680 pages of major policy documents proposed for approval. This posed a challenge for even the most dedicated policy wonks and impossible for the public on such short notice. These included rezoning across the city in all RS (detached) and RT (duplex/infill) zones to multi-family under the Housing Vancouver strategy and Making Room reports, as well as a planning program for the Broadway corridor.

Although most of this council aren’t running for re-election in October, the first referrals to public hearing were approved for July 18, followed by major reports for July 25. They seem determined to ruin what is left of this city as they run for the exits with most of the rats jumping ship. Continue reading

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Regressive Property Surcharge – The Georgia Straight

B.C. property surtax undermines cities and affordability

By Elizabeth Murphy, The Georgia Straight, June 14, 2018

The province of British Columbia introduced a property tax surcharge that is a substantial encroachment onto the municipal tax base. It is precedent-setting in how it is proposed to be applied and will make life less affordable for both owners and renters. The government needs to reconsider this.

Property taxes are the main source of revenue to cover municipal services. But rather than B.C. using its own provincial tax base, such as the progressive top bracket of income taxes, it has chosen to impose a new surcharge on property taxes. Although this is called a “school tax”, it is not about funding schools since it just goes to general revenue and is not based on a mill rate. It is a provincial tax grab of the municipal tax base.

Although the surcharge is currently proposed to only affect properties over $3 million, it has been strategically set at this rate to reduce opposition, while pressure is already building from some academics to adjust the threshold to $1 million. That would affect the entire city and most of the region.

Once a precedent is implemented, it would be much easier to expand the criteria to capture more properties. Property values have increased across the board, not just at the high end.

So while an ideological war on the “rich” is portrayed, the reality is that most average people will eventually be affected, including those who may not be affected initially.

The problem with property taxes is that they are not based on the ability to pay, so in that respect are regressive. Many of those affected are low income or average earners, who will be forced into debt or to sell. Deferral is a form of debt that requires a charge on land title to the benefit of the province, and not everyone will qualify. Continue reading

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BC Property Surcharge Town Hall Meeting

WPGRA Meeting on BC Surtax Presentation 

On May 27, 2018, the West Point Grey Residents Association (WPGRA) held a town hall meeting on the BC ‘school tax’ property surcharge, with MLA David Eby.

The Jericho Hill Gym was packed to capacity, including the upper balconies, at over 900 in attendance . With the exception of only a few people, the overwhelming opposition to this tax was clear. MLA David Eby committed to taking this message, including the proposed alternatives, back to the government and Minister of Finance, Carol James.

Main points often repeated by attendees:

  • Most cannot afford this tax.
  • Many cannot defer.
  • There are better options from the provincial tax base to cover needed revenue for schools rather than encroaching on the municipal tax base of property taxes.

The presentation by Elizabeth Murphy is here. BC Budget-Surtax-2018-Presentation

Copyright Elizabeth Murphy 2018 all rights reserved.  

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