Vancouver's local elections are just a bit over a month away, and Mark Marissen, the mayoral candidate for Progress Vancouver, revealed this week how he is planning on tackling one of the city's biggest issues: affordable housing.
"We face a massive shortage of housing. We need to build more. Not housing for profits, but housing for people. Housing for students, children, and seniors. Housing for workers. Housing for families," Progress Vancouver said.
The plan announced earlier this week, titled "Housing For All," consists of 12 points, and are as follows:
- Replace outdated land use policies with modern, common-sense zoning;
- Create the Vancouver Civic Housing Corporation (VCHC) to build mixed income housing;
- Allow seniors housing to be built in all neighbourhoods, enabling seniors to remain near their children and grandchildren;
- Increase housing targets to 15,000 per year with 50% being rentals;
- Support co-ops, collectives, and multigenerational homes as alternatives to market housing;
- Secure new commitments from Ottawa & Victoria on social housing;
- Enact a progressive Luxury Homes Surtax on the top 1% of properties;
- Maintain the empty homes tax; support all federal and provincial antispeculation policy;
- Protect renters;
- Streamline the Permitting & Approvals Process;
- Reform Community Amenity Contributions [CAC];
- Support Indigenous-led housing developments as a respectful, collaborative partner
Asked by STOREYS what he thinks makes Progress Vancouver's housing plan more distinct than other parties, Marissen said that he believes the plans of other candidates cannot meet "the urgency and scale of the challenge."
"[Mayor] Kennedy Stewart has had four years and his only accomplishment is a pilot project that doesn't even have shovels in the ground yet. Ken Sim’s big housing idea was allowing second basement suites. That neither solves the housing crisis, nor provides dignified housing to the more than half of the residents of Vancouver who rent. Colleen Hardwick would prefer to stop building new housing completely," Marissen says.
Marissen has previously criticized the City of Vancouver, writing in an op-ed earlier this year that "This persistent housing shortage is due, in part, to our Vancouver City Hall’s slowness -- or unwillingness -- to act." When STOREYS asked Marissen to provide to an example of that "slowness", Marissen pointed to the Vancouver Plan.
"The Vancouver Plan was started at the beginning of the term. After four years all city hall has to show for it is a glorified visioning document. It is a plan to make a plan, one that doesn't actually change the bylaws that prevent the construction of needed homes", he said.
The Vancouver Plan began its planning period in 2019, was officially approved by city council this July, and is currently in Phase 5, Implementation Strategy.
Marissen also pointed to 1780 East Broadway: "The application was submitted to the city in 2019. Three years later it is stuck in rezoning limbo, with the public hearing having been canceled this past summer." According to the City of Vancouver's development and rezoning application portal, the application has been revised twice already, once in Fall 2020 and once in Fall 2021. The public hearing Marissen is referring to was scheduled for July 7, and is "postponed until further notice," according to the City.
When asked how he would change things and how he would avoid falling victim to that same slowness, Marissen focused on accountability. "Fixing this requires leadership and a willingness to hold city staff accountable for their performance. Progress Vancouver is going to streamline the approvals process and set binding performance standards and hold staff accountable for meeting those standards," he told STOREYS.
Describing himself as "a leader in the city’s business, political and arts communities" in his campaign website biography, Marissen has worked as a public affairs strategist and was involved in, among other things, delivering the Canada Line, Millennium Line, and Evergreen Line SkyTrain projects. He also founded Burrard Strategy, a "Public Affairs and Digital Advocacy agency"; serves as an advisor to McMillan Vantage, a public policy firm; and is the ex-husband of former BC Premier Christy Clark.
Vancouver Local Election 2022
Election day is Saturday, October 15, with Mayor Kennedy Stewart and all 10 city councillors seeking re-election.
As of this week, 10 parties are running candidates in the election. They are, in alphabetical order:
- ABC Vancouver: Ken Sim (Mayor); Rebecca Bligh (current councillor), Lisa Dominato (current councillor), Sarah Kirby-Yung (current councillor); Mike Klassen, Peter Meiszner, Brian Montague, Lenny Zhou.
- COPE: Jean Swanson (current councillor); Breen Ouellette, Nancy Trigueros and Tanya Webking.
- Forward Together: Kennedy Stewart (Current Mayor); Russil Wvong, Dulcy Anderson, Hilary Brown, Alvin Singh.
- Green Party: Adrianne Carr (current councillor), Pete Fry (current councillor), Michael Wiebe (current councillor); Devyani Singh, Stephanie Smith.
- Non-Partisan Association: Fred Harding (Mayor); Melissa De Genova (current councillor); Elaine Allan, Cinnamon Bhayani, Ken Charko, Arezo Zarrabian.
- OneCity: Christine Boyle (current councillor); Iona Bonamis, Ian Cromwell, Matthew Norris.
- Progress Vancouver: Mark Marissen (Mayor); Mauro Francis, Asha Hayer, May He, Morgane Oger, Marie Rosa, David Chin.
- TEAM for a Livable Vancouver: Colleen Hardwick (current councillor, running for Mayor); Cleta Brown, Sean Nardi, Param Nijjar, Grace Quan, Stephen Roberts, Bill Tielemann.
- Vision Vancouver: Honieh Barzegari, Lesli Boldt, Stuart Mackinnon, Kishone Roy.
- Vote Socialist: Sean Orr.
Vancouver's housing crisis will undoubtedly be one of the most important issues in the election. After a summer that saw a significant amount of attention drawn to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, homelessness and the housing crisis are at the top of many minds. Polls have found that most British Columbians, with a few exceptions, are dissatisfied with how the all three levels of government have addressed the issue, and many candidates in the October election have shown that they recognize this, spending lots of time speaking on these issues.
The deadline for nominations is Friday, September 9 and the City of Vancouver is expected to officially announce the full slate of candidates on Friday, September 16.