Kennedy Stewart has made it clear that housing is Priority 1 on his agenda when he is sworn in as Vancouver’s first independent mayor in more than 30 years on November 5.
“That’s the overwhelming message from the electorate,” said Stewart, who campaigned on building 85,000 units of non-profit, rental and market housing over the next decade.
He has also championed tripling Vancouver’s empty-homes tax and protecting one-third to half of city homes from foreign speculation – policies he acknowledges will likely require heavier discussions with council, to which a mix of Non-Partisan Association, Green, Coalition of Progressive Electors and OneCity councillors have been elected.
“I would really like to get away from the housing crisis as fast as we can, and get on to the growth side of things,” said Vancouver’s mayor-elect. “That’s what I’m most looking forward to.”
Stewart has committed to review the city’s permitting and taxation processes, and while he has said that no strategy or policy is off the table, he maintains a review will be the starting point for any further discussion.
However, Stewart wants any kind of cuts to be revenue neutral, “rather than us having to take a huge cut and worse … passing on more costs to the residential folks that are already being hit hard.”
He also said mayoral campaign rival Hector Bremner’s idea to offer split assessments on commercial properties should be looked at.
“It really bothers me that you can operate a business for 30 years in one location and they rezone your area or a development permit gets approved, the building won’t be built for five years, but your commercial property taxes go through the roof, and because of the triple-net lease, you’re responsible for them.”
This article is an edited excerpt from Business in Vancouver's interview with Kennedy Stewart. For the full BIV story on Stewart’s early promises for his tenure as mayor, click here.