April 5, 2018

Civic Election Talk – Sylvester, Evans and Condon

Shauna Sylvester has announced her independent candidacy for mayor of Vancouver, according to Mike Howell in the Vancouver Courier, and Dan Fumano in PostMedia outlet the Vancouver Sun
Fumano interviews Sylvester on video:

Says Howell:   For several months, the so-called progressive parties in Vancouver — the Greens, COPE and OneCity — have been meeting to devise a strategy to foil the Non-Partisan Association’s plan to take back city hall.
. . . .  So is Sylvester that one candidate who can unite all of them?
It’s too early to say, was the common answer in interviews the Courier conducted with representatives from COPE, the Greens, OneCity and Vision prior to news breaking of Sylvester’s announcement.

Catherine Evans announces she’s seeking a Vision council nomination:

And Patrick Condon, possible mayoral candidate, talks housing affordability in the Tyee:

It may now be of value to take a similar approach, i.e. to tax land more heavily, using the proceeds to insure that decent housing exists for everyone who works in this city.
. . . Perhaps under our present circumstances it’s time to look further afield for models, like Vienna where over 60 per cent of housing is held outside of markets, or Singapore where the number is over 80 per cent.
. . .  We are enduring a tsunami of international capital which is being used to create speculative real estate values that are robbing us of the community we have collectively created. This uncontrolled, illogical and immoral speculative wave is forcing our sons and daughters to other lands to survive. A tax on land speculation, tried with success in other nations, is worth considering. No amount of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic will do. Vancouver real estate is a rigged game of monopoly with a few winners and a vast public body whose lives are severely diminished.

Find out more about Vienna’s housing model HERE and HERE.

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  1. In Patrick Condon’s Tyee piece (comments are now closed) he recommends a purely local or regional tax on land “speculation” (essentially, just another tax on land value) to finance the Vienna model of housing here in Vancouver. He seeks to punish speculative behaviour, but whipping one element is a big error.
    While I believe there is great value in the Vienna model, his prescription does not seem to understand that the model is highly successful and widespread because it is financed by the entire nation through general revenue, not through a single tax on local land. Moreover, the Vienna housing model is controlled by three separate laws and covers a plethora of forms of occupancy, from subsidized housing for low incomes to outright ownership.
    The government of Austria devotes 0.5% of its annual budgets to housing, and the funds are collected from all nine individual states with a total population 3.65 times Metro Vancouver’s. Vienna received 450 million euros from the Austrian federal government for its subsidized housing in 2017 alone, and topped that up by 127 million E’s for a total of 577 million. This housing model has been active for decades, so you can imagine the total amount of money involved.
    If Vienna is our mentor, then clearly 78% of the funding must come from the taxpayers of Canada with a 22% Metro top up, and the effort must strive for many years to achieve 60% public ownership of all housing in order to divorce housing from the market.
    The great flaw in Condon’s logic is that for all it’s worth in today’s heated market, Vancouver’s land speculation value alone will not ever create public housing to such levels. And to achieve what little may be gained from this, you’ll be punishing ALL homeowners and renters, because all homeowners and renters occupy land to some extent, from detached homes on large lots to 60-storey towers. The tax burden on under-zoned lots will be egregiously excessive and will bring hardship to tens of thousands who have lived in their family homes forever. Private rental owners will pass that burden directly onto the tenants. Without doubt, there will be a citizen’s tax revolt.
    Condon is misguided to think that by throwing massive land tax grenades at speculators, especially foreign speculators, you’ll hit only speculators. You’ll hit everyone who pays property taxes and rent. In this light, the gentle density increases being considered today by Vancouver’s politicos and planners seem very well thought out by comparison, if terribly late.
    And this guy wants to be mayor.

    1. Private rental owners trying to pass on a (new) tax burden to tenants will find their EX tenants living in subsidized Co- Ops SUPPLY . The best type of rent control is a landlord with empty suites

      1. Co-ops have huge waiting lists due to a long absence of senior government funding for new units. It will take years to catch up. In essence, co-op housing has terribly low vacancy rates, just like rentals.
        Supply & demand.

  2. Condon needs (yet again) reminder of Berra’s “In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice; in practice, there is.”
    Seasoned development professionals are cognizant that the industry has cycles, and – like the US equity market – is long in the tooth. Those cycles correct towards the mean, so any pundit who bases her theory on a heated market, is peripheral.