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NPA's Hector Bremner calls for more supply, more varied housing in Vancouver

'Add more supply and the right supply you basically burst that speculation bubble and it starts to level out.'

Hector Bremner has won the NPA's nomination for city council in October's civic byelection.

Jen St. Denis/Metro

Hector Bremner has won the NPA's nomination for city council in October's civic byelection.

Hector Bremner lives in a rented condo in downtown Vancouver with his wife and two adult sons, in a building he suspects is so heavily Airbnb’d it’s “kind of like living at a hotel.”

Bremner, the Non-Partisan Association’s candidate for Vancouver city council in the upcoming Oct. 14 byelection, believes there’s only one real solution:

“Build, build, build.

“There are two things that experts agree on: climate change and the supply crisis in Vancouver,” Bremner told Metro during an interview outside city hall.

“It’s time to end this pretending we can solve it with basement suites and laneway houses.”

The byelection was sparked by Coun. Geoff Meggs’ decision to work for the provincial NDP government. Vision Vancouver will still hold six out of 10 votes, but it's a chance for the NPA to shore up its numbers or for upstart parties to gain a foothold.

Housing affordability is looming large in the byelection, with several of the candidates entering the race directly from professional involvement in the housing issue.

Jean Swanson — an independent candidate supported by the Coalition of Progressive Electors — has for decades advocated for people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.

Judy Graves is running for OneCity, a party hopes to provide an alternative to both the centre-left Vision Vancouver party and the harder-left COPE. For over 20 years, Graves worked at the City of Vancouver as an advocate for the homeless.

Bremner is a former public servant who worked in the Ministry of International Affairs and with current interim B.C. Liberal leader Rich Coleman when Coleman was Minister of Natural Gas and the minister responsible for housing. Bremner works for public relations firm Pace Communications and says his experience working with Coleman has given him a firm understanding of housing issues in British Columbia.

If Bremner’s “supply will fix it” mantra sounds familiar, it’s because it is also the solution favoured by Coleman and former finance minister Mike de Jong, who often criticized municipalities for holding back development with red tape.

Bremner believes speculation is a real force in the Vancouver real estate market, but he thinks building more of a variety of housing is the way to fix that problem too.

“It’s heavy-handed and you wouldn’t have the vacant units, and they wouldn’t be traded like commodities, if they weren’t commoditized,” Bremner says of Vancouver’s recently-introduced vacant homes tax.

“But if you add more supply and the right supply you basically burst that speculation bubble and it starts to level out.”

Instead of neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood zoning, Bremner believes Vancouver needs a city-wide plan, and all single family should be opened up to allow a mix of “missing middle” housing, from townhouses to duplexes to low-rises. The city’s recently release “Housing Reset” plan just doesn’t go far enough, he said.

When it comes to pushback to density from residents, Bremner believes a more careful consultation process will bring the majority of people onside, when it’s clear how more density will benefit them.

“We look at the city as a series of micro-economies and we work with people, we show them the types of jobs that are there and what is possible in that area,” he said.

Vision’s candidate for the byelection is Diego Cardona, who came to Canada from Colombia as a refugee and has been active in advocating for other refugees.

Pete Fry, who has been active in advocating for community issues in Strathcona, is running for the Vancouver Green Party. It is his second council run.

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