Jang & Reimer discuss their housing strategy with DTES activists – see video
In our next CityCaucus redux post, we feature a great story we ran back in December 2009. We discovered a very interesting YouTube video which provided an insider's look into Vision Vancouver's housing strategy. We hope you enjoy it as much the second time around!
In the new world of social media, almost anybody can have their words captured on video and placed on YouTube for the whole world to see. Sometimes the person doesn't even realize they're being recorded, while other times the camera is in plain view.
In the case of Vision Vancouver Councillor Kerry Jang, I happened to stumble across an obscure video taken of him at a meeting with a bunch of Downtown Eastside housing activists. When I first saw the video it had only six views. So as you can imagine, it hasn't garnered a lot of interest. What the video does provide us however is a unique insight into the backroom world of how Vision Vancouver's politicians, Downtown Eastside social activists as well as developers are tightly intertwined.
It you click above, you will find Jang sitting at a table in front of a green chalkboard with his council colleague Andrea Reimer as well as housing activist Jean Swanson. They are discussing housing strategy and tactics when Jang provides the activists with praise for all their hard work. He also sheds new revelations regarding his private discussions with BC Housing Minister Rich Coleman.
Jang can clearly be heard providing kudos to the group whom he believes is the real reason why Coleman opened up his wallet and provided millions to the city for temporary housing. Here is what Jang told the activists:
I think I give you guys, CCAP (Carnegie Community Action Project), credit for the Howe St. where you guys managed to help us with our negotiations with the Province. By pushing when we asked you to push and back off when we asked you to back off, I think that really made a big difference. Because it kept things cool so that when we were negotiating with Minister Coleman and staff we had that relationship that was trusting. But then it's nice every so often to have you guys poke. It was nice for us to be able to say to Wendy [Pederson] and Jean [Swanson] could you go and poke now. Or this is the time to do something, but back off. Or talk to your friends and back off right now. Cause that really made a big difference for us. And I think that's why we got this much money (inaudible).
Jang then reveals Vision's government relations strategy when it comes to dealing with the Province of BC. He says he goes to Victoria and "whines", "yells" and "screams" his way to success. I don't know about you, but if someone walked into my office and acted that way, I'd probably be calling the police, not handing them a cheque.
He's lucky the Minister is a patient man who clearly has his heart in the right place. Here's what Jang said (this clip part of longer video):
In terms of what we do with senior government (inaudible)...literally go, we (cry?? inaudible), whine, yell, scream. I sat in a room with Minister Coleman the other day saying well...shelters are only part of it but we need the rest. He understands that. He actually acknowledged it. He acknowledged it publicly yesterday...the claim is they are working on it.
Again this is a budget shortfall and that's always been the case. Whatever they spend the money on, take it up with them. It might be the Olympics, it might be this it might be that. But certainly from the City's perspective we've invested massively in land and in doing the permitting for free and getting the capital costs started.
As for whether a conversation with Councillor Jang can be considered confidential...well he says:
Minister Coleman said to us in our private meeting the other day. I can share this with you. He said one thing I forgot to mention in the press release was that these people aren't going to the emergency room anymore. If you gave me 25 cents of dollars of those savings I could pay for more social housing in Vancouver. So he's aware. And that's part of my strategy personally, I'm working on showing savings in health care and then can we divert that money from health care to social housing.
At least we now know that Vision's housing strategy is to analyze the BC Health Ministry budget to determine how much savings can be diverted away from hip and knee surgeries and into Vancouver's social housing. Explain that to the people living in area code 250.
If you ever wondered just how personally involved Vision councillors are when it comes to rolling up their sleeves and negotiating land deals with individual developers, listen closely to what Jang tells tells the activists.
He reveals that not only is he and Councillor Raymond Louie negotiating deals with developers, they are specifically focusing on those of Chinese descent:
To your comments (inaudible) about how this will pay for itself. These are the types of negotiations Raymond Louie and I are going to some of these developers. They are part of the Chinese community. So we have a different angle we can talk to these guys. So I talk to Drew Kim, I talked to Robert Fung the other day...Terry Hui. Talking about alternative models. To get this stuff paid for beside just building market housing. They are open to the ideas but we have to educate them a bit. But we are actively working with it. Especially now that they aren't able to build. They are willing to look at other things. We are jumping on that opportunity. And as you know we have put together a number of opportunities for them. STIR, short term incentives for rentals and things like that. To help them see our way. Including laneway housing just the other day, I mean just to release some stock.
Probably the funniest line Jang delivered to the group (not in the clip above) was when he told the activists "no sense hammering us as we've already given the land." Clearly he wants the group to hammer the Province instead.
I find it interesting how when Vision was in opposition they had no problem "hammering" the previous NPA record on housing. This despite the fact the NPA had secured more new funding for permanent housing than any other civic government in history. This housing record did nothing to discourage activists like Swanson and Pederson from regularly firing off attacks against the NPA. In fact, a group of unknown activists even hung a councillor in effigy on the front lawn of City Hall for the NPA's "lack of progress" on the housing file.
As we've previously written, Robertson and Vision have secured no new funds for permanent long-term housing since getting elected in 2008. Rather, they've chosen to focus mainly on getting new money for short-term temporary shelters instead.
After seeing this video, it's not hard to understand why Vision have been given a free ride from the traditionally outspoken housing advocates who have long argued for permanent housing over temporary shelters. It's amazing what a change in administration can do to your "activist" roots.
- This post was originally published in December 2009.