West End residents gather to voice concern over STIR program
Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver party was voted in 18 months ago on a series of great goals: ending homelessness, increasing EcoDensity and increasing the supply of rental housing stock throughout the city, to name a few.
To achieve this last objective, Vision pushed the Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing program (“STIR”, for short) through council. Essentially, STIR provides a series of incentives to real estate developers to build rental housing and encourage projects where up to 100% of new multi-residential rental housing units are secured for the life of the building. The STIR program also waves development cost levies to encourage the building of rental stock.
Before going any further, let me just say that Vision Vancouver’s serious push to make good on its promise to voters to expand Vancouver’s very narrow rental market is commendable. It is true that Vancouver is suffering from a rental shortage and purpose built rentals is a good way to fix that. But, not to the detriment of community and liveability i.e. not at all costs.
In Vancouver’s West End, several proposed STIR projects (tearing down a church at 1401 Comox and putting up a 22 storey building, adding a sixth tower to the Beach towers complex, to name a couple) would do just that. These projects would entail radical rezonings producing huge increases in population density, traffic, and stress on overstretched amenities. (Incidentally with no development cost levies, dealing with these pressures falls to the taxpayer.) With no indication coming from council that these proposals will be rejected, concern among West Enders is mounting and neighbourhoods are coming together in a lot of creative ways to voice their opposition.
As this forum is not meant for hopping on our soap boxes, I won’t elaborate how much I agree with neighbour Ned Jacobs (urbanist Jane Jacob’s son) that, on top of everything else, the Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing program, “offers density bonuses and waives amenity contributions, plus other incentives, in return for market rentals at rates that few Vancouver renters can afford.”
No, no… I prefer to end with showing you in two simple ways how neat it is that our opposition is bringing out creativity, solidarity and pluckiness in all of us, cementing friendships and neighbourliness along the way. Check it out:
We’re getting really good at flyers. And, at colours. That’s right, when something incites opposition to the extent that STIR has in the West End, people get creative and let their collaborative skills shine! And with the joys of the interweb, a colourful document like this gets shared around plenty for input before it hits the websites and supermarket bulletin boards near you.
Last Sunday, with barely any promotional effort on my part, about 90 concerned residents, their families and their pets gathered (see above photo) at the foot of the Beach Towers to share their views about the impending 22 story development there.
It was rainy, it was a Sunday and yet they came. Allow me to be grossly corny, and say that the wall created by our umbrellas was a strong symbol of our opposition to a sixth tower at Beach. Too much corn? Yea. I know. Still, it was a beautiful thing.
I can’t represent it in this blog, but the amount of amazing wordsmithing that has been flying out of West Enders’ outboxes and into the hands of media, city councillors and fellow residents has also been astounding.
My opposition to STIR in the West End started with “not in my back yard” and into a full fledged defense of my community, a rewarding and gratifying experience that goes beyond politics.
- post by Godfrey von Nostitz-Tait. His editorial was originally published on March 22nd in The Daily Gumboot. We are republishing it here with the Godfrey's permission.