Comment on Housing Affordability

Photo by Kevin McConnell The disconnection with the past and the soon to be future. Just behind heritage houses, the construction project takes place.
Photo by Kevin McConnell – used with permission

Every single day I hear from people who are struggling with housing affordability. It’s not always the first issue they raise with me, sometimes it’s being unable to buy essential medication or a coat for their child. But the high cost of housing plays a major role in their troubles.

The housing affordability crisis affects nearly everyone, from renters to first-time homebuyers, seniors to young families. With the skyrocketing costs of single family homes throughout Metro Vancouver making headlines, it can be easy to forget that on the other end of the scale, the BC Housing waitlist is horrendously long. I’ve had reports that people waiting as long as 9 years for a one bedroom unit. Non-profit housing providers have struggled to keep up with increasing demand as more and more people are priced out of market housing. Seniors on a fixed income simply can’t afford to have their rent raised every single year.

For those seeking rental housing, there’s the risk of renovictions—a common occurrence in the West End of Vancouver and becoming more frequent in New Westminster—as well as leases that include a “move out clause” meaning that after one year of tenancy, they are not subject to provincially regulated increases. The landlord can raise the rent as much as they see fit and if the tenant can’t pay, they have to move out.

Hearing about frail seniors in homeless shelters and families housed in units that are much too small for them, I certainly understand why some people are feeling hopeless. I believe that government can make a difference by investing in affordable housing and supporting seniors’ services. The City has done much to protect rental stock and create affordable housing, but senior levels of government need to come to the table. We also need to implement the changes to the Residential Tenancy Act, such as protecting renters from renovictions and closing the loophole on one year tenancies, as proposed by my colleague Melanie Mark.

The provincial government introduced some knee-jerk legislation this summer after the Official Opposition had already proposed more elegant solutions supported by experts, solutions that would effectively address the housing speculation that is happening in the region.

Working families shouldn’t be forced to move out of New Westminster to find housing that meets their needs. But that is exactly what’s happening.

I am holding a Townhall on Housing Affordability on September 8 at 7PM. We will be gathering at Douglas College in Lecture Theatre N2201. I want to hear your stories about how the housing affordability crisis is affecting you and your family. We will also discuss potential solutions.

We have limited space so please RSVP. You can register on Eventbrite.

Let’s work together to keep New Westminster the strong resilient community that we love!

I hope to see you there.

When Advocacy Works the Way We Want It To

C3 townhall photoBeing the MLA for New Westminster is a many-faceted job. From debating the Premier in the Legislature to speaking to elementary school students about what it means to be an MLA to attending innumerable community events, this is a job that is never boring. One of the biggest pleasures of my job is fighting alongside the community for services that matter to their everyday lives.

Here is a case in point: Recently I met with Sapperton resident Lori Nicks about concerns regarding TransLink route changes in her neighbourhood. She felt that cancelling the C3 bus service that previously ran up Richmond Street would have a negative effect on her community. She witnessed people – often seniors – struggling to trudge up the steep hill. We decided that I would organize a community meeting and invite TransLink to take part.

Lori is a tireless organizer who leafletted her neighbourhood and knocked on neighbours’ doors to encourage them to attend the meeting. She collected 28 letters which I submitted in a package to the new CEO of TransLink.

We were expecting about dozen people to attend, but Glenbrook Amenities Centre filled up quickly with over 90 residents! It was gratifying to be able to provide an opportunity for them to have their voices heard by TransLink decision-makers as well as New Westminster City staff. TransLink had held consultations previously, but none of the residents in attendance—many of them seniors—were aware of these and therefore didn’t have the opportunity to make their opinions and needs known.

The meeting was extremely fruitful–TransLink acknowledged the need for bus service up Richmond Street and agreed that by September 2016 they will re-route the C9 to respond to the issues raised that meeting. We will continue to push TransLink to address other community concerns about frequency of bus service and connections to other parts of the city. But this was a big step forward for the neighbourhood and it shows how much can be accomplished when the community comes together with their elected representatives to stand up for important services.

It’s Time for a New NWSS

NWSS Principal Phil Cookson and New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy (and post author) discuss the present condition of NWSS with Minister of Education Mike Bernier while standing in the high school. 

In the almost three years since I’ve been elected as MLA for New Westminster, there’s one question that I am asked almost daily: when are we getting a new high school?

The New Westminster Secondary School project is complicated – and it will be costly. In fact, this will be the most expensive school the province has ever built. The School District 40 Board of Education has submitted a comprehensive plan, one that respects the burial sites on the land and provides a modern learning environment for students. Continue reading “It’s Time for a New NWSS”