By the end of this year, BC will see new NDP leadership and a new Premier. It is anticipated to come down to former Attorney General and Housing Minister David Eby and human rights and climate activist Anjali Appadurai.

Ahead of the election, which will culminate on December 3, STOREYS had a chance to speak with Appadurai about what she has in store should she be elected.

While Appadurai wasn’t at liberty to give specifics on her policy platform just yet -- there will be more on that to come -- she was able to speak on the broader issues facing housing in BC and her hopes for disrupting the status quo for the better.

Investing in Climate-Resistant and Climate-Conscious Housing

As a longtime environmental activist and the Director of Campaigns for the Climate Emergency Unit, one of the key priorities that runs through Appadurai’s campaign is addressing the climate emergency.

BC has been gravely affected by weather extremes -- in 2021 alone, a severe heat event claimed more than 600 lives in the province -- and for Appadurai, protecting the population means building housing with climate change in mind.

“The heat dome event that happened in June is an example of some of the climate-related weather events that we're going to be able to expect more frequently in years to come,” she says. “And 97% of the people who died in that disaster died inside their home. That really speaks to how housing needs to be made adequate for the climate emergency, and that is especially true at the lower income levels.”

We’ve seen climate-resistant housing modelled in other parts of the world; homes are being built to withstand typhoons in Japan, floods in Mumbai, and bushfires in Austrailia. Appadurai believes the same nature of modelling can and should be done in BC.

“We need to be aggressively investing in climate-resilient, affordable housing,” she says. “Across the province, it's market housing and luxury housing that has received the most benefit during the past few years, and I want to see the opposite of that happen. I want to see us prioritize housing for the most vulnerable and for lower-income families and for those who need it the most.”

And for Appadurai, building housing during a climate crisis isn’t just about protecting civilians after the fact, it’s also about investing in preemptive measures to mitigate the role housing is taking on the environment at large.

For instance, her hope is that all new homes will be linked to a heat pump system rather than gas. Another idea she’s rallying behind is building neighbourhoods that reduce the need to commute.

“We also have to look at creating a housing model that allows people to live near where they work, which gives rise to this idea of full communities or complete communities,” she says. “We can reduce car dependency by allowing people to live near everything that they could possibly need for their daily lives.”

Fast-Tracking the Response to Homelessness

Homelessness in BC has escalated to a crisis point. In fact, it’s a top issue amongst BC voters this election, with many residents saying that the government isn’t doing enough to address the chronic and worsening issue. And Appadurai agrees, saying that the current model for housing in the province’s homeless “simply isn’t working.”

“We really need a rapid supply of affordable well-below-market rate modular housing and we need that housing to be built whether it's profitable or not,” she says. “I think the City and the province need to work together to take this matter into their hands.”

This means streamlining the bureaucratic processes. Without doing so, Appadurai fears BC could have more mass mortality events ahead.

“Despite red tape, we need to build rapidly, because next summer is going to be a brutal one,” she says. “We cannot leave the most vulnerable among us out to dry.”

Embracing a Diverse Population -- and Making Sure Newcomers are Housed

“I think cities like Vancouver are at a bit of an identity crisis when it comes to housing,” says Appadurai. “You have some voices fiercely advocating for the neighbourhoods that characterize Vancouver in its early days. And then you have other voices pointing out the huge population growth and the new diversity that's in the city and the need for housing to shift to accommodate all the new families and people who want to work in the city.”

As far as she’s concerned, BC’s changing demographics and the housing challenges that the province is facing are “deeply connected.”

“The way that we approach housing [needs] to completely to shift because the current neighbourhood model doesn't reflect [what] Vancouver looks like right now,” she says. “A lot of housing supply and multifamily housing built in certain areas of the city maintains a demographic order from a very long time ago.”

More specifically, she hopes to shake up neighbourhoods like Shaughnessy and Dunbar.

"We need those older neighbourhoods to be broken up and for housing that is appropriate for young families to be built in those areas. We need multifamily housing in those areas,” she says. “To actually support diversity and actually have neighbourhoods where folks from different cultures and different walks of life can actually live together and benefit from each other, we need to build a city that really reflects all of us.”

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