Right here at Saanich Hall, on September 26, the province said that they consulted the municipalities to generate the forced housing targets, which is incidentally on unceded land.
I asked the province both by email on October 5th and in the Saanich News on November 8: who exactly did you consult?
I finally received an answer from the province the following day. Their answer was: municipal staff.
Here is what their response said:
“Municipal staff from all 10 municipalities participated in consultation meetings with Ministry of Housing staff.”
So, there it is folks, the government consulted itself. They didn’t consult the public. The government consulted themselves, in order to ram thousands of new housing units, regardless of the consequences. They did so, regardless if the public wants or needs this, while simultaneously throwing the public out of the chambers on zoning, by stopping public hearings. This is exactly what the development lobby has been calling upon them to do!
Did municipal staff say they wanted the target numbers?
You can ask staff that right here and now. I am officially asking you to do so. Right here and now. As elected officials, here to do your sworn duty to the public, you must.
Ask staff exactly what the numbers were that staff told the province that Saanich needs mandated by the province.
Please ask that now.
If not, if municipal staff didn’t say they want these target numbers, and if you won’t ask them these questions; then these supposed consultations by the province of itself, are utterly bogus and should be disregarded, if you have any sense. They will have been based on nothing.
Furthermore, there is no actual mechanism to enforce the targets. What are they going to do, appoint another Housing Solutions Advisor?
I am calling the province’s bluff. That is exactly what this is.
To play along with this infantile game from the province, is merely acting the role of puppets in that game.
Saanich should ask staff what numbers it told the province Saanich needed, if any, before doing any update to its strategic vision. Saanich will do this, if it has any sense of integrity and transparency before the public.
Without answering that question, all you will be doing, is playing along with the well-established textbook of NDP political theatre. That is all this is, other than pandering to the development lobby of course, by crushing local democracy.
The NDP government has no plan to deliver affordable housing across the province, and all this is; is positioning itself for the next provincial election, by giving the powerful development and real estate lobby what it wants, at the cost of local democracy.
To Mayor and Council: You were elected by the people of Saanich. Will you show backbone and stand up for them, and for their democratic rights; or will you bow to our new NDP-UDI corporatist overlords?
I think that I already know the answer. I challenge you to prove me wrong.
Note: The item for deliberation was G2. Report from the CAO: “To adopt the update to the Strategic Plan to incorporate the objective and actions related to the Ministerial Order issued under the Housing Supply Act.”
The following excerpt is quoted from Les Leyne's Times Colonist article: "Public hearings curbed in housing legislation":
"Single-family zoning isn’t the only thing abolished in the NDP government’s bill that mandates up to six dwellings on each such lot.
The bill also eliminates the need for public hearings except in specific instances. It not only removes the need, it specifically outlaws them.
“A local government must not hold a public hearing …” crops up three times in this week’s Bill 44, Housing Statutes (Residential Development) Amendment Act." Instead of advertising public hearings, the bill requires councils to advertise that they will not be holding them.
It’s not what you’d expect from a party with the word “democratic” in its name. This is a government that has a communication and public engagement department devoted to listening to and polling people on dozens of issues.
They just finished a consultation to help decide what the official provincial fossil should be.
But now they are imposing strict new limits on people’s ability to express views on vastly more important issues to do with what their neighbourhoods look like."
In light of BC Bill 47 (2023), which upzoned huge swathes of land along the Skytrain route, it is well worth looking at the statutory authority TransLink's relationship to the Urban Development Institute development lobby/real estate of which it is a paying member.
To quote Translink's Real Estate webpage:
"As Metro Vancouver’s transportation authority, TransLink holds land assets and rights throughout our region.
TransLink’s Real Estate division is responsible for acquiring, managing, and disposing of the enterprise’s properties in a manner that optimizes revenue, reduces capital and operating costs, and furthers our long-term goals for transportation infrastructure, sustainability, and a healthy environment.
The Real Estate division at TransLink oversees the following:
- Land acquisition for transit infrastructure development including expropriations
- Lease and tenant management
- Property and asset management
- Statutory Right of Way (SRW) management and enforcement
- Disposal of surplus properties
- Acquisition of strategic real estate assets
- Integrated developments
- Adjacent developments
- Portfolio management and strategy
- Station retail management
- Park and Ride facilities management"
"External Advisory Committee
The TransLink External Real Estate Advisory Group has been formed to provide objective, professional advice, and expertise to TransLink regarding TransLink’s real estate development strategy and activities.
President & CEO UDI
Anne McMullin is currently the President & CEO of the Urban Development Institute (UDI). UDI is a non-profit and non‐partisan industry association of the residential, commercial and industrial builders, which supports more than 220,000 good‐paying, family‐supporting BC jobs through nearly $23 billion in annual economic activity. Through municipal fees and contributions, the industry builds homes, offices, daycares, social housing, parks, public art, museums, schools and community centers throughout BC.
Anne studied political science at the University of British Columbia and journalism at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). In 2017, she received the BCIT Distinguished Alumni Award."
Anne has held multiple leadership and communications roles, including President and General Manager of the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Director of Communications at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, and a Lower Mainland journalist. In her spare time Anne volunteers with many charities and community organizations."
Real Estate | TransLink
The following is quoted from the UDI Capital Region's Policy and Advocacy Updates Page:
November 8, 2023 - Province Introduces Legislation to Mandate Density Near Transit Stations
|Today, the Province announced Bill 47 which if passed will mandate minimum residential heights and densities near SkyTrain stations and bus exchanges where there are residential or mixed-use land uses. This has been a long-standing policy objective of the Urban Development Institute. Anne McMullin, UDI’s President/CEO, stated in the Provincial news release: |
“We see this legislation as a pivotal turning point with the potential to significantly accelerate the pace of home construction in areas where growth is most needed and can be best accommodated. For years, the UDI has advocated for maximizing the billions of dollars of investments made by senior governments in our rapid transit system. Transit-oriented development will help us achieve other societal objectives: streamlined and more affordable commuting between work, home, and other destinations; decreased greenhouse gas emissions; and the cultivation of vibrant and healthier communities as people can walk or cycle to meet their daily needs.”
Under the UDI Ideas for Provincial Involvement in Rental Housing document of August 2017 was the following text:
"Provincial Sites: The Province could lease some provincial lands in urban areas to the
private sector to build purpose-built rental housing. The free land would allow the
Government to leverage lower-market rental units. This policy could also apply to land
owned by Crown Corporations. Some overlooked sites may have real value. TransLink
officials attended a Board meeting a few years ago, and several Directors expressed interest
in developing sites in the right-of-way of the SkyTrain – especially at or near stations.
Several public sector entities own this land, including TransLink and BC Hydro. We recognize
that First Nations groups would need to be involved in these discussions and leases.
Land Banking: Linked to the above is continuing to purchase land that could be used for
affordable and rental housing. The previous government contemplated allowing TransLink to
purchase more land than required for building rapid transit projects. The excess land would
then be redeveloped, or sold/joint ventured with developers for profits that could be
reinvested in the transit system. What if this approach were adopted, but the lands were
used to build rental/affordable housing? These sites would be close to transit stations which
is essential for those living on lower incomes. Land costs would be reduced because
TransLink (or the Province) could purchase lands before speculation elevates land prices. In
suburban areas, TransLink could purchase land for “park-and-rides” near stations, which
could be redeveloped (again as rental and/or affordable housing projects) as transit lines
are extended and older station areas urbanize."
Pre-zoning: UDI has advocated at the local level for pre-zoning in areas where there is a
fully developed Area Plan in place that resulted from a robust public consultation process
(including a public hearing). This reduces processing times by eliminating a significant step
in approvals, and reduces risk. Public hearings at the rezoning stage are not necessary
(because of the public hearing at the area planning stage). We ask the Province to
encourage this – especially for rental housing projects."
The following is quoted from the UDI's policy page:
"PARTNER IN COMMUNITY BUILDING"
"UDI has a number of municipal liaison, policy and professional development committees to engage and collaborate with government and members. If you are interested in participating, please contact our Member Relations Manager."
"KEY POLICY PRIORITIES - 2020"
"TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT
Supply needs to follow transit as a means of addressing affordability and livability throughout our region. With our current rapid transit system, many key stations are under-utilized as they are zoned for single-family homes and/or low density development (i.e. Nanaimo and 29th stations, Broadway corridor). Regional density targets need to be set in these communities and around its stations. Municipal land-use plans (e.g. Official Community Plans) should be updated with density targets to accommodate growth further into the future. No future rapid transit lines should be approved without corresponding growth targets along the line"
Policy - Urban Development Institute (udi.bc.ca)
Under the UDI Housing Policy Policy Priorities" document of October 2020, was the following text under the heading "Solutions for a Stronger British Columbia":
"BUILDING FOR TRANSIT BY:
Expanding transit investments so that Transit-Oriented housing projects can be built
with more affordability and in more areas across urban regions.
Respecting taxpayer dollars by linking new transit investments to land-use changes
through binding transit supportive agreements between local governments,
TransLink/BC Transit and the Province with specific targets and penalties, such as
increased TransLink taxes."
UDI Housing Policy Priorities
TransLink is a BC provincial statutory authority that is the successor to BC Transit in the Greater Vancouver Region. The provincial crown corporation BC Transit is also a UDI member.
Densifying along transportation corridors, as well as along potential transportation corridors, can lead to spectacular profits for speculators through the process of land-lift, as was evinced during the expansion of New York City in the 19th century, a time which saw politics and speculation operating hand in hand. Despite all the construction that has taken place over the years, housing in New York City in the 21st century, like housing in the City of Vancouver, is not known for affordability.
TransLink | South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority | Vancouver Region - Membership Application - Urban Development Institute (memberzone.com)
Musqueam Capital Corporation | Vancouver Region - Membership Application - Urban Development Institute (memberzone.com)
Policy and Advocacy Updates - UDI Capital Region
Transparency in Saanich? How will mounting infrastructure costs be paid for? Will it be through direct taxation, or will it be through utilities accounts? Saanich residents ought to know.
At the November 6, Saanich Committee of the Whole, a discussion took place regarding the way the public will be taxed for mounting costs related to increased infrastructure requirements that will result from the district’s current model moving forward. These increases would help propel a projected skyrocketing debt, running into hundreds of millions of dollars. An increase in utilities costs, rather than direct taxation was the direction indicated that night.
Well, which will it be? Should the residents be left with a mounting utilities bill, in order to pay for long-term projected debt? Should the district be transparent with its added taxation instead, through the regular practice of direct taxation? Should the district alter its model moving forward, or generate a business plan, so that current residents are not left to foot a massive tax increase beyond the rate of inflation, in order to pay for long-term projected debt?
TC: Article: View Royal wants audit of province’s new housing legislation - Victoria Times Colonist
“They’re creating legislation about restricting public engagement, without consulting the public,” said Tobias, noting that means residents will no longer be able to raise concerns or help guide development so it fits more smoothly into a neighbourhood.
“I don’t know what the rationale would be, although I would suspect they’re in a hurry.”
The legislation introduced last week requires municipalities to update zoning bylaws to permit multi-unit buildings on lots typically used for single-family detached homes. It would also do away with public hearings for rezoning applications for housing projects that align with official community plans."
“The provincial government isn’t talking to any municipality about all these housing changes – they’re informing us,” Tobias told the Times Colonist. “I’m curious as to why there’s been no provincial engagement and why no public engagement as well, because some of this legislation forbids municipalities conducting public hearings on some things that are in the [official community plan].”
In his letter to the Auditor General, also sent to the premier, leaders of the opposition parties, local MLAs and all mayors in the province, Tobias said the legislation’s implications, particularly concerning the absence of public and municipal engagement, “warrant a thorough investigation to ensure transparency, accountability, and alignment with governmental priorities.”
Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said she understands the concern and has ensured the letter will be on her council’s next agenda.
“I feel that really this is coming fast and furious and I don’t feel that there’s an understanding of some of the implications with it,” she said of the provincial housing regulations.""
2023 11 07 Ltr Mayor re Audit Bill 44.pdf (viewroyal.ca)
BC Hydro is planning to remove several hundred trees near Prospect Lake in Saanich in order to upgrade their power transmission lines.
The organization appears to have shown almost no interest in attempting to prevent, mitigate, or lower the number of trees to be eliminated. Given the state of the environmental crisis, this flagrant attitude by the organization towards trees, deserves serious questioning.
Among a number of questions that come to mind, what is Hydro’s relation to the development/real estate lobby?
Why for example, is BC Hydro a paying member if the Urban Development Institute (UDI), a real estate/development lobby (the UDI):
Source: BC Hydro | Vancouver Region - Membership Application - Urban Development Institute (memberzone.com)
Why did BC Hydro give the UDI over $19,000 this year?
Why does B.C. Hydro use a UDI member real estate appraisal company to value right-of-way expropriations for new transmission lines?
To quote a 2013 article from the Times Colonist:
"B.C. Hydro uses D.R. Coell to value right-of-way expropriations for new transmission lines and the forestry ministry uses the firm to value its vast land base as does Environment Canada for parkland. Local and provincial governments also need appraisals for their land, as well as water lots around the region.
Major real estate investment trusts, or REITs, use appraisers when they make major purchases of shopping malls, seniors housing and condo projects, said Humphreys.The work involves intimate knowledge of local zoning, allowances and all economic aspects of properties, said Humphreys."
According to the BC Lobbyists Registrar, the UDI has lobbied its paying member the British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority and the province by among other things "Advocating to create a better, more collaborative working relationship with BC Hydro, builders, and municipalities to alleviate the challenges in design and positioning of infrastructure through timely communication, and the creation of adequate infrastructure capacity to support new growth."
"Seeking BC hydro engagement with municipalities on development of building electrification."
"Seeking support for BC Hydro’s work to proactively identify and address delivery capacity gaps in infrastructure, particularly for high-growth areas."
Given the partnership that BC hydro has with the development lobby and the funding of it through its membership and activities, I think that BC Hydro owes the public an answer, given the serious repercussions to the environment that removing hundreds of trees on the Saanich Peninsula will have.
“Saanich residents upset hydro planning to cut down hundreds of trees”
“As many as 362 trees could be removed to upgrade power lines”
Austin Westphal Saanich News Mar 30, 2023
Entry under ‘D’: "D.R. Coell & Associates Inc."
Web link: https://www.lobbyistsregistrar.bc.ca/
“Fresh eyes for D.R. Coell property appraisal firm”
“Greater Victoria’s largest real estate appraisal company has a new owner. Scott Humphreys has acquired D.R Coell & Associates from its long-time partnership group in a succession plan with a twist.
Darron Kloster Jul 26, 2013 7:57 PM”
Need more evidence that Saanich council is on the wrong side of the environment, road safety and basic common sense?
See: Saanich rejects idea of limiting sign size in elections - Victoria Times Colonist
How nice for the Province to demand housing targets at exactly this point in time.
This is what the chief executive at Large & Co said last year:
"“This is why the province is stepping in — Minister David Eby is saying, come the fall, the hammer’s going to fall,” said Kim Colpman, chief executive at Large & Co., the company that had proposed the Quest building at 2326 Oak Bay Ave. The project has been in the works since 2017. “I believe he thinks they’re not doing their job to get houses to market,” she said."
I wrote this letter in response to that last year:
""Don’t blame Oak Bay for a national problem" [March 29, 2022 - Times Colonist]
Also published in the Oak Bay News as: "Oak Bay a scapegoat for housing crisis"
Large & Co is a member of the UDI development and real estate lobby and it was the UDI that asked the Province to introduce the housing targets.
""Oak Bay council finally, unanimously, approved condo project The Quest after more than 10 years of rejections.
In the end, it took just a minute for Oak Bay council to approve its most contentious and controversial development, and Large and Co. developer, Pam Coplman, can’t believe it’s finally happening.
“Well, thrilled. I mean there is nothing else to say,” said Coplman on Thursday. “It’s been 10 years, and it actually still feels a little surreal. It doesn’t feel like it’s happened. It’s a great feeling to actually move forward.”
First proposed by Large and Co. Development more than a decade ago, council rejected the four-storey condo development several times, including in 2022, when councillors refused to allow a public hearing.
But Coplman persisted, and says the timing worked in her favour.
“Honestly I think it’s political. When you have the pressure from the province, and also the community, they really want housing of all kinds, they just can’t afford to say no,” Coplman said.
Earlier this year, the province announced housing targets for municipalities on its so-called ‘naughty list’ that are lagging on housing, including Oak Bay, which has a goal of building 660 units over the next 10 years.
B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon says the province’s goal is to build more housing.
“We have legislation coming this fall which will allow up to four units on single family lots, transit-oriented development, So there is a whole host of things that will come to ensure that local governments meet their targets,” he said.
Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch says this decision proves the municipality is moving in the right direction.""
Quoted from CHEK News article Oct 12, 2023 "Oak Bay council finally approves project after 10 years".
It should also be noted that the municipality of Oak Bay is a paying member of the UDI and Kevin Murdock was the mover of a motion at the CRD several years ago that gave the UDI a permanent seat on the Regional Housing Advisory Committee along with a number of other organizations/lobbies. All of those organizations/lobbies with permanent seats on that committee in one form or another are paying members of the UDI.
Similarly, 2 days ago, the Province announced the creation of a digital advisory council, where the UDI and other organizations have a seat.
How can the media practice unbiased, independent research and journalism on issues like Real Estate and development when they are an official media partner and member with their lobby?
How can the media be considered local, when major international money is flowing as a conduit through these sectors, thus changing the urban landscape forever in the interests of global finance?
To quote Glacier Media’s website:
“Glacier Media offers the largest residential and commercial real estate exposure in Canada, connecting advertisers with millions of buyers and sellers through our digital and print network.
Our multi-channel marketing solutions are spearheaded by REW, Canada's leading portal for real estate listings, new home developments and property insights.
Get results for your business with Glacier Media's custom website design, content creation, social media, digital and print advertising, and search engine marketing.
What we do
Unparalleled real estate industry knowledge
Choosing marketing options can be a challenge when trying to determine which platforms will deliver results for your business, listings and projects. Our comprehensive suite of marketing solutions, specifically designed for the real estate industry, makes choosing the right marketing mix easy for you. We offer one point of contact with deep industry knowledge to generate the most leads for you across Glacier Media products.
Helping buyers find their perfect home
Our two residential brands, Real Estate Weekly Homes and REW (Real Estate Wire), are about more than just real estate – they’re about finding people homes. We are committed to providing the best print and online sources of new and resale homes in the hottest real estate markets in the country.”
Connecting agents and new home developers to the community
Our product depth, market coverage and wide-ranging offerings connect agents and brokers with home buyers and real estate investors. Our comprehensive listings attract the region's most affluent, active home buyers and real estate investors – meaning that your real estate business can't afford not to work with Glacier Media's real estate team.”
Don’t get me wrong, I get that newspapers have traditionally relied on Real Estate ads for revenue and developing a modern web system for related searches would make rational business sense for the evolving industry.
What I and others have had serious issue with though is the open partnership with the lobby for those sectors. At what time does this cross the line from journalism to public relations for the industry?
A democracy is reliant on a free press to function and to survive, but as has been noted: there are far more people working in Public Relations than in journalism in Canada (The Tyee Dec 16, 2022). Under these conditions, is the public in power, or is industry?