Editorial: Votes speak volumes

It’s been said that one of the worst ways to determine if an applicant is the right person for a job is to interview them.

Or, one of the worst ways to determine if a political candidate is the right person to govern is to have an election campaign.

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The better way to gauge future fit is past record. In other words, it’s not about what someone says they’ll do, but what they’ve actually done that is the best predictor of what they’ll do in the future.

It’s with that in mind that I read Coun. Bill McNulty’s letter to the editor in last week’s paper. In it, he described the “desperate need for more rental housing units of all types in Richmond.” He notes that the city “requires developers to set aside five per cent of units as low end market rental in developments of more than 80 units. For developments under 80 units, developers have the option of making a cash contribution in lieu of providing rental units.” McNulty acknowledges that, more often than not, the city accepts cash, which is not immediately helping create more affordable units. He also argued that the city should consider increasing the percentage of affordable units required from developers from five to 15 per cent.

Just a few days later, councillors were presented with a joint proposal to build a total of 103 condos, all to be sold at full market value. At issue was whether council should insist that five per cent of the condos for sale (103-units) should be built as affordable units. The developers said ‘no’ because, despite the fact the buildings share a driveway, parking lot, landscaping and pool, they are two separate developments; one 73 units, the other 30 — each slipping under the 80-unit threshold.

While there was much debate and councillors instructed staff to negotiate a few affordable units, the proposal passed unanimously on to the next stage. 

When I started working at the Richmond News 10 years ago, we joked that the phrase “…and we’ll increase affordable housing” was like a tic at the end of every city-endorsed sentence. Ten years on, we have an affordable housing crisis.

To be fair, regarding the above-mentioned proposal, the deal is still being negotiated. But the point is, it’s not eloquent speeches but actual voting records that show us where people stand. I applaud McNulty for raising some serious questions about the city’s housing policy and council’s commitment to it. 

But just as it’s not New Year’s resolutions but day-to-day decisions that determine the course of our lives, it’s councillors’ votes, meeting after meeting, that indicate the priority given (or not) to affordable housing.

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