It’s often said that actions speak louder than words.
At the Sept. 16 council meeting, a motion brought forward by Mayor Shari Decter Hirst to request the province examine the portion of the Residential Tenancy Act that addresses compensation for evicted mobile home park tenants and to accurately reflect the true cost borne by evicted tenants was carried. Two councillors voted against the motion, myself and Assiniboine Coun. Jeff Fawcett (also the only two councillors to have mobile home parks in their wards).
The issues with the motion are simple: there was zero consultation with mobile home park owners/stakeholders prior to tabling this motion, and there was no concept of what the ramifications would be for mobile home parks in Brandon (and provincewide) should the provincial government act.
Mobile home park expansion/creation would help address part of the affordable housing issue in our community. Increasing the liabilities for existing or potential new developers would be a disincentive to further development, and is counterproductive to addressing the affordable housing concerns.
The lack of consultation with stakeholders in this motion is reminiscent to the lack of consultation prior to the tabling (due to the mayor’s request, not council’s) of provincial Bill 7, which would allow municipalities to force developers to build affordable housing as part of new development. When the issue was brought to our table by former Meadows councillor Jim McCrae, it was soundly defeated by council.
This isn’t the first issue that the mayor has supported that is detrimental to the affordable housing initiative:
Private commercial garbage pickup will begin for all apartment/condo buildings with seven or more units in 2014. This has negative effects on affordable housing in a couple of ways; promotes lower density developments (so less units enter the market), and the increased cost to the landlords will be passed along to the tenants through rent increases (further decreasing the affordability).
In 2011, we saw an unprecedented movement by citizens who rallied against the proposed city property tax increase of more than 15 per cent. I opposed the budget, calling it unaffordable for our residents and businesses. This budget was later amended and was finally approved at 4.9 per cent (while I still opposed it). Tax increases like these create uneasy business environments for rental housing development, and rent controls prevent this increased cost from being passed along to the tenant. This can drastically affect the business model of a rental property to the point of no longer being viable as a rental, leading to condo conversion and sale, leaving the city with less rental stock.
In order to address the housing needs of our community, it’s time for a collaborative approach with the private sector, developers, not-for-profits and community members rather than the “us versus them” mentality that is often portrayed. It isn’t enough to simply say “we want more affordable housing.” We need to create an environment and develop policies that will actually lead to more development, rather than policy that creates disincentives, uncertainty and division.
Sometimes those who claim to be the champion of a cause turn out to be one of its biggest enemies. Actions always speak louder than words, and the actions of some leave me wondering which side they’re on.
COUN. STEPHEN MONTAGUE
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 1, 2013