Those who don't ask, don't usually get
During the last election, Mayor Robertson made eliminating homelessness the key plank in his election platform. It was undoubtedly this issue that helped him to score a lot of political points and secure his victory.
If the Mayor is so concerned about affordable housing, we ask why was funding for the 12 sites the city has set aside for social housing not on the 'shovel ready' list released by the Big City Mayors Caucus yesterday?
CityCaucus.com confirmed with sources at Vancouver City Hall that at least three infrastructure funding requests put forward by former Mayor Sam Sullivan were now M.I.A. at the BCMC. These included upgrades to the Burrard Bridge, the "C-Line" Granville Island to Stanley Park streetcar, and the 12 social housing sites.
While all metropolitan areas in Canada claim to need more senior government help to build social housing, the reality is it is not a priority for most of them. Of the 1,157 'shovel ready' projects put forward by Canada's mayors, only 21 projects (under 2%, or about 3% of the total monies requested) fall under the category of "public housing (retrofits, improvements and development)."
Despite his aspirations to end homelessness by 2015, there is no indication Mayor Robertson brought forward a single project on the 'shovel ready' list relating to social housing for the Feds to consider in 2009. Twelve sites in Vancouver featuring 1200 new units of social housing developed in partnership with the province have been approved by Council. They couldn't be more ready for shovels.
By comparison, the City of Fredericton asked for $6M for an 'underground infrastructure housing project'. The City of Saskatoon put several projects on the list including the construction of "250 government-supported affordable housing units." The City of Ottawa requested funding for the "acquisition and rehabilitation of apartment hotels 153 and 1057 Merivale Road to supportive housing." And the City of Toronto has made a very specific ask for "500 new affordable housing units in Regent Park and other sites," as well as repairs for "9000 social housing sites."
Vancouver or Surrey? Nada.
Before jumping out in front of the cameras at the news conference on Tuesday morning, Mayors Robertson and Watts should have been asking their staff why no social housing projects were placed on the 'shovel ready' list. Surely they were briefed on the details of the announcement prior to speaking publicly?
It's worth noting that Surrey was able to provide their own separate wish list of infrastructure projects, while Vancouver's list (the majority are waste water & engineering projects) were lumped in with the rest of Metro Vancouver. We wonder why couldn't Vancouver have put forward their own separate infrastructure list like other cities such as Saskatoon, Brampton & even the District of Maple Ridge.
The absence of social housing on the 'shovel ready' list is difficult to comprehend given all the importance that was placed on solving homelessness in the last civic election in Vancouver.
When those Mayors get back to Vancouver, they've got some splainin' to do.