17,000 Homes Approved in 2022 | NPA Court Action Continues | Empty Homes Tax Rollback | Olivia Chow's Mayoral Bid
At Forward Together, we have been working hard on retooling the organization, including developing a new strategic plan to take us through to the 2026 civic election. Everything is on the table, including a name change and partnering with other organizations to advance progressive policies.
A number of you have contacted us asking about becoming candidates. If this is something you are thinking about, let us know and we’d be happy to chat to you about what’s involved in running for municipal, provincial, or federal office - our team has run and won at all levels!
Speaking of elections, Olivia Chow is in a strong position to become the next mayor of Toronto! I have known Olivia since 2011, when we were both elected to the House of Commons under Jack Layton’s leadership. We have stayed in touch over the years and I recently spoke to her about the housing measures we put in place here in Vancouver including the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program and the renter protections we built into the Broadway Plan. Fingers-crossed for Olivia!
On the housing front, in case you missed it, city staff updated Vancouver’s housing numbers a few weeks back and we finally got to see the fruits of four years of labour. These are pretty impressive numbers in terms of concrete action to address Vancouver’s housing crisis. In 2022, City Council approved a record 10,825 homes.
Better yet, the majority of these homes are secure market rentals. If you include the fact that we also signed a historic service agreement with the Squamish Nation to enable 6,000 rental homes at Sen̓áḵw, this brings the 2022 total to almost 17,000 approved homes. This is an amazing number considering we approved just over 5,000 homes in 2019 – an almost 250 per cent increase from my first year in office!
Of course, we did this all during the pandemic and with an extremely fractured council. I am working on a new article on these very hopeful developments that I’ll pass along soon.
One thing that is not good news is recent changes to the Empty Homes Tax (EHT). The EHT discourages property owners from leaving their residential properties vacant for extended periods -- the higher the tax the greater the incentive to sell or rent vacant homes. As one would expect from a right-wing council, Mayor Sim and the ABC councillors went two steps backwards on the EHT.
In the spring of 2022, I convinced council to increase the tax to five percent and won unanimous approval. But ABC just cancelled the increase and kept the EHT at three per cent. Worse still, they took $3.8 million out of the city’s social housing fund and handed it as an EHT rebate to developers.
Some of you have been asking about the status of my anti-SLAPP lawsuit. The case stems from a 2021 exchange where I challenged the Non-Partisan Association to address a widely-reported ideological shift to the extreme right. The NPA directors sued me for defamation. I countered with an anti-SLAPP case and won with costs. These proceedings put me back in excess of $150,000, which the court ordered the NPA directors to pay, but I have yet to see a penny and whatever I eventually recover will just cover my lawyer’s fees. I am hopeful this issue will be resolved in the coming months.
Speaking of court, we have some big news on our at-large court case that we’ll share with you in a series of separate emails in the coming weeks. As I found out from the anti-SLAPP case, going to court is expensive, so we will need your help. Feel free to chip in here.
That’s it for the June update. It’s always great to hear from you so please write back and let us know what topics you’d like us to cover in the future.