Mayor Robertson holds roundtable meeting with local developers to map out a tax break scheme
A report came to Vancouver Council yesterday that proposed giving the city's big developers a $22 million tax break. With the exception of NPA Councillor Suzanne Anton and COPE Councillor Ellen Woodsworth, the tax break was unanimously supported by the Vision-dominated City Hall.
This move by Vision to give tax breaks of up to $9000 per unit constructed would have never passed the sniff test under an NPA government. That's because Vision would have immediately called a media conference and demanded the Mayor halt this "gift" to his big campaign donors. Oh how the tables have turned.
It's public knowledge the development industry are some of Vision Vancouver's largest donors. They simply couldn't run an effective civic campaign without all of their hefty contributions. Now that Vision's in government, it's amazing to see how they can slip in this massive tax gift with a straight face.
They are calling the tax gift program STIR, a cutesy name which stands for Short-Term Incentive for Rental program. Vision argues that by giving big tax breaks to the city's developers it will help to spur on construction, thus creating new jobs.
The problem is this report came in at the last minute (yet again), and was not the result of broad community consultation. For heaven's sake, besides a handful of developer and architect types who were hand-chosen to participate in a roundtable discussion with Mayor Robertson, the public has been kept in the dark until this week.
Vancouver taxpayers are now going to see a shortfall of $20 million dollars that could have been used to build pocket parks, greenways, community centres etc... Once again, public amenities will take the hit. All the while, there is no clear evidence that this type of tax break is going to create a single additional unit of affordable rental housing in Vancouver.
It's worth noting that Vancouver already has 48% of the rental housing stock in the Metro Vancouver region. However, it doesn't represent 48% of the population. In other words, as a percentage, Vancouver is already punching above its weight when it comes to the development of rental housing. However, if you listened to the rhetoric of the Vision councillors, you'd think Vancouver were trailing other municipalities...something that is simply not true.
There is a clear pattern emerging under Robertson's leadership. Act now, consult later. He did it with his HEAT shelters. He did it again with Gregor's Garden. And now he's doing it with his STIR program.
This is in addition to the disturbing amount of in-camera meetings he's been holding as well as an increased number of "late distribution" reports which allow the public little time to review major policy initiatives before they become law.
Robertson is displaying a real father-knows-best attitude. It's something that's likely been hard-wired into his political DNA and that of his Vision/COPE colleagues. You know what I'm referring to. A sense or moral superiority that can supersede the legitimate concerns or questions common folk like you and I might have about any particular issue.