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Vancouver byelection: Greens call for rental tax break, Swanson to picket Chip Wilson's house

On Oct. 14, Vancouver voters go to the polls to fill one vacant council seat.

Pete Fry (left), byelection candidate for the Green Party of Vancouver, Coun. Adriane Carr and federal Green Party MP Elizabeth May talk about housing issues on Sept. 22, 2017.

Jen St. Denis/Metro

Pete Fry (left), byelection candidate for the Green Party of Vancouver, Coun. Adriane Carr and federal Green Party MP Elizabeth May talk about housing issues on Sept. 22, 2017.

The race for just one Vancouver city council seat continues to be a hard-fought battle, as established and upstart political parties make their pitches in advance of a full municipal election in 2018.

Vancouverites go to the polls Oct. 14 to elect one city councillor and nine school trustees.

At a press conference on Friday, the Green Party of Vancouver promised to lobby the federal government for a reinstatement of federal tax incentives for construction of new rental apartment buildings, and an expansion of the program to include maintenance and renovation of older rental buildings.

Tax incentives offered by the federal government spurred a boom in rental housing in the 1970s and 80s. Over the past 30 years, however, it has been much more lucrative for developers to build condos, while almost no new rental buildings were built. In Metro Vancouver, new rental supply has only begun to be built in the past few years as municipalities try to incentivize the new construction.

Vacancy rates throughout the region are below one per cent, which has put renters at a disadvantage when it comes to rental rates, evictions and finding a new place to live.

“With willing federal partners, we can leverage the power we have here in the city of Vancouver to build the kind of affordable rental housing that we need and raise those vacancy rates,” said Green Party candidate Pete Fry. If elected, Fry would be the second Green councillor on council, joining Adriane Carr.

Fry added that his party wants to create an office to support tenants. For instance, he said, if tenants have received an eviction notice because their landlord plans to renovate, the tenant support office could ensure building permits have already been issued for the work the landlord plans to do — since a common tactic is for building owners to issue eviction notices before they have applied for permits.

Meanwhile, independent candidate Jean Swanson will hold a rally in front of Chip Wilson’s house on Saturday to bring attention to her proposed “mansion tax.” Swanson, a long-time poverty activist who has been endorsed by the Coalition of Progressive Electors, hasn’t yet revealed the details of the tax, but she plans to present a “new notice of assessment” to the Lululemon founder, whose $75,000,000 Point Grey house is the most expensive in Vancouver.

The council seat was left vacant this summer after Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs decided to take a job with the provincial NDP. Vancouver’s school board was fired by former education minister Mike Bernier a year ago after failing to pass a balanced budget and allegations of bullying and harassment.

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