Langley City council candidates were asked to answer one or both of the following questions:
A: The City of Langley is facing ever-increasing challenges with homelessness, including open drug use, camping on public property and lack of washroom facilities. Demand for services is increasing and placing more pressure on local outreach agencies. As a council member for the City of Langley, how would you go about addressing this problem?
B: Low-cost housing in the City is, in some places, being replaced by new, more costly, development, while in others, it is simply deteriorating without available funding for proper upkeep.
What do you see as the City’s role in ensuring that low-income residents have access to safe, affordable housing and, if elected, what steps would you take to address the issue?
B: Affordable market/rental housing is an issue that is faced across the province. The City of Langley currently has the highest number of low-cost rental housing units per-capita in Metro Vancouver. Even so, much of it is older and in need of renovation or re-development.
It requires a multi-pronged approach. The province and federal government need to partner with communities and provide incentives for developers and community groups to build more affordable units. For the first time in many years, the federal government has, through CMHC, provided very attractive long-term loans to developers to build, renovate and manage more rental properties. B.C. has also opened, through BC Housing, more funds for communities and social agencies to apply for funds to create more social and rental properties.
The City of Langley should meet with the other levels of government and advocate for that support in our City and in the region.
It is very difficult for a local government to directly fund or build housing.
However, local governments can provide municipals lands, as the City did for the Gateway of Hope, or other incentives such as density bonuses, reducing Development Cost Charges all of which would help to see social housing options being provided.
The City also should, through zoning and policy initiatives, encourage a more balanced approach to the mix of housing options. Removing red tape and expediting approvals will also ensure the speedy delivery of units to the community. Finally, the City of Langley should advocate and work with our neighbouring communities to encourage them to provide similar options and incentives. As the mayor for the City of Langley if I am elected, I will use all my experience and contacts to make sure that we meet the needs of our community for the benefit of all of our citizens.
Val van den Broek
A: We need to continue our partnership with federal and provincial levels of government to secure more housing and more medical services (for addiction and mental health) that some homeless require. I think we need to address this problem regionally, a partnership with the provincial and federal governments, as all other municipalities are dealing with the same issues. The Band-Aid approach we’re currently using isn’t helping anyone.
Resources are stretched to the limit and we have a shortage of nurses, whom we need to deal with the mental health and addiction issues. Protective services are stretched to the limit and their hands are tied because it’s not a crime to be homeless and they’re also dealing with the opioid crisis.
We need to augment our Integrated Case Management Team to adequately help people. They’re currently at maximum caseload and there’s a long waiting list. Our current council has advocated to the provincial government for more case workers and will continue to do so until we get results.
We need an urgent care centre, so we can have outreach workers connecting nurses to community locations such as senior centres or shelters. It would benefit the entire community. The centre would improve quality of care and also provide more care to more people.
One in six people in B.C. don’t have a family doctor. It would alleviate emergency room wait times and could cater to 1,300 patients a week. I’d like to see a housing-first type program, where the idea is to give people shelter first, then focus on drug abuse, mental disorders or other personal issues. It’s hard to get a job or get better if you don’t have a stable place to live. The tax revenue from marijuana should be going directly back to communities to deal with these issues.
A: The extremely complex issue of homelessness is affecting all communities in Metro Vancouver, and for that matter the entire world. Here in Langley City our homeless population is much more visible due to our size as well as the services available. That said, I believe that we have an amazing community of caring and compassionate people who want very much to help. Our provincial government has recognized the issues facing local governments and have implemented housing, addiction and mental health initiatives to assist communities. It seems to me that we have an opportunity to make positive steps around these issues, we have tools and finances available, and we have community services and groups (non-profit and faith-based) with a passion to help. I have had face-to-face meetings with the Ministers of Mental Health and Housing, our province is ready and willing to help.
All we need, and this sounds simple, is to develop and strengthen our community relationships with a focus to effect change. For example, why not look at offering work for services, (haircuts, showers, dental) why not bathrooms to provide some dignity?
This may be a difficult challenge for some, as egos may need to be parked, political alliances may need to be put aside and some may even need to think outside of the box and/or processes in order to do what is best for our community, its residents as well as for humanity itself. In my mind until all partnership groups are ready to genuinely come to the table these issues will continue to grow.
I know that I am willing to step up and do my part for our community.
B: I am running for council for three basic reasons #1 Protecting housing for seniors and the community. #2 Push back to some degree on the street life to insure a safe community. We need to solve the issue of a growing homeless population. #3 We need to connect youth with the community in a positive way.
The #1 issue for me is how does the future land on our senior population and those with lower incomes. I have read the Nexus of Community Plan and I don’t like the culture of this report, it in many ways is a fairy tale with a bad ending for seniors and lower income residents.
Are we going to be swallowed up by GVRD planning or are we going to stay as an independent community? We can’t have it both ways, I believe I have the courage to stand our ground to protect the day to day life of our residents especially our senior population. If life is good for seniors it is good for all. I believe the best future for the City of Langley is to solve the homeless issue and street crime and protect the community for our senior population.
I have not only talked about this, I stood my ground a little over a decade ago protecting the housing of over 100 seniors at the Lions Housing Society Complex. We stopped a development that would have seen over 100 seniors evicted. We found a better way that allowed the development without any evictions. I am not against growth, but I don’t warship on the alter of growth. If I’m elected, seniors will have a tough advocate that will stand for their interest. I make no apology for this position.
The City of Surrey and the Township of Langley are massive, their growth and development is beyond our control. To use a boxing term, it puts us on our back foot, we must endure their growth. We need to stand our ground in the best interest of our residents. If we want to maintain our quality of life we need to adjust to the growth around us. The Township of Langley and City of Surrey have a population equal to Vancouver and collectively have six times the land mass. We could end up as nothing more than a neighbourhood in an area of over a million people within a decade or so if we are not careful.
Langley City is six square miles dead center of this area, with 25,000 people already here.
We must have the courage to insure we protect our community and not fall victim to growth for the sake of growth. We need to have a measured approach to growth and go by the standard of “do no harm” when considering development. Growth cannot come at the expense of destroying lives there is always a better way we need win win alternatives.
I, with others, vetted this out for real about 12-14 years ago when we (The Rainbow Residents Association) opposed a development being proposed by the Lions Housing Society. This would have resulted in displacing over 100 seniors to accommodate a development. We opposed this in a very difficult climate. We stood our ground and stopped the evictions. We then helped with a process that allowed the objectives to be met. The construction of a new building housing seniors that need assisted living and no tenants were evicted to achieve the goal, it was a classic win win.
It was not easy however we did not destroy lives and the complex is much better off. I believe growth and development is possible, but it can’t come at the expense of peoples lives and community. There is always a way, but you can’t let the culture that wants growth to succeed at all costs if it is at the expense of community and people’s lives. I will govern based on who lives here now not for some future populations wants and needs.
I believe the City Council and the staff of the City have done a very good job and I do not feel I am running against the current council. I do believe I will bring a resolve and strength to the oversight of council going forward, I will stand for those in our community that need a strong voice to advocate for their interests.
The growing homeless population and street crime issue is the result of growth and we need to get a solid grip on these issue before simply agreeing to more development. We can’t displace people who are vulnerable, I will have to moral courage to stand by my convictions. I have proved this in the past and will do it going forward.
A) The greatest single crisis anyone can face is homelessness.
Under this threat an individual rapidly begins to lose hope. The ever increasing despair continues to undermine the mental and emotional wellbeing of that individual.
And be certain, desperate people will do desperate things. Imagine your first night curled up seeking shelter behind a dumpster. How long would you last? Cost associated with homelessness, increased health care costs, policing, crime, etc. have been placed at $100 per individual per day while housing for those less fortunate costs roughly a third of that while at the same time getting to the heart of the challenges facing these individuals.
The Housing First program in Medicine Hat is a testament to that fact.
Once lacking support from the current mayor he now speaks with pride and conviction for Housing First.
This program through its success has brought a community once overrun with homelessness to a point where all have a home.
In direct response to this, Regina and Saskatoon are following in the same footsteps. These are compassionate, caring and fiscally responsible solutions not left wing ideologies. We simply need a council that will step up. Vote for change, vote Randy Caine for councillor.
A: When I talk to the people living in the City of Langley about making Langley City a more livable community, almost every person asks what are you going to do about the homeless and drug addiction problems plaguing the area.
The City of Langley already has a very high rate of police per capita with nearly half of the city’s budget currently going towards policing.
We’ve tried over the years to resolve many of the issues by increasing the number of police, to no avail.
Instead we should be taking some of those funds and invest them in support groups similar to the Intensive Case Management team that are currently in place to help address some of the homeless and addiction problems in the area.
The City is already indirectly funding many factors in regards to social housing and homelessness. With home prices continuing to rise, more and more people are finding themselves edging closer to what can eventually lead to becoming homeless. I think all levels of government need to take a more proactive approach to dealing with issues that can help prevent homelessness before it begins. Funds should be spent more on preventing homelessness instead of dealing with the aftermath.
Take, for example, places like Medicine Hat where they have for the most part eliminated homelessness.
By increasing the amount of support that is out there, combined with a timely method for getting people housed, they have found that this more proactive approach to solving homelessness in fact costs only 20 per cent of what it was costing to deal with the ongoing issues related to keeping people homeless.
It’s fiscally responsible for the City to take action in addressing these issues, as the outcome is multi-tiered with greater safety combined with a more livable community for all residents.
A: I believe we need to genuinely explore options for supportive housing (including low-barrier) by working with neighboring communities, Fraser Health, our MLA and MP. Affordable housing is also a key component as part of the solution, as some homeless people find themselves in their current situation due to lack of affordable housing. I would possibly suggest for this the allocation of a certain number of units per development that are designated as such.
The camping on public property and lack of washroom facilities will never be fully addressed until we collectively seek out or assist with providing housing. Drug use is an entirely different challenge, as it is an addiction and must be dealt with as such.
I think it’s important that we not lose sight of the main three reasons why people find themselves homeless – lack of affordable housing, drug use and mental health issues – and in my opinion, each issue must be addressed individually on a case by case basis.
A: The homeless situation is complicated having several categories that often overlap. The drug addicted are the most visible however, there are those with mental health issues, aging-out foster care youth, and even seniors who are homeless. Each category needs a comprehensive strategy involving local and senior government ministries working together to find solutions.
Langley City provided land and resources for the Gateway of Hope that was suitable when built but the need has grown with visitors from other jurisdictions. With a regional plan involving the Township of Langley and Surrey, a progressive step process could be developed from basic shelter, to counseling and rehab, to training and work placement shelters.
The Ministries of BC Housing, Health and Family Supports would be crucial in these strategies.
I support the Integrated Case Management team of Mental Health,Social Workers and RCMP who visit, counsel and offer willing participants alternative and positive lifestyle options. I feel a second team is warranted, along with additional firefighters to help save lives in the opioid crisis.
It is not the City’s mandate to provide housing, however I would support grants and tax incentives be given to support societies and agencies willing to build new or improve existing social, senior and low-income rental housing.
Taxpayers are frustrated at the disregard public camping creates. The garbage, needles and feces left behind often makes these public spaces unusable costing the city in remedial clean up.
The longer the encampments are left to set up, the more unusable the public spaces become.
I support moving them along under the provisions of the BC Supreme Court ruling. I recommend additional bylaw officers to cover weekend and after-hour enforcement and the later closing of public washrooms.
B: There is only one low-cost housing residence, due to a fire, that has been replaced by a new development. Prior the new development being approved the City required the owner to provide a relocation plan for all existing tenants, no one was displaced.
The re development that is taking place on the western edge of the city are where the single family homes date back to the 1950s and ’60s. They are being replaced by family-oriented condominiums, which young families are moving to.
Thirty-five per cent of the housing in Langley City is rental, one of the highest in Metro Vancouver.
Many of these units date back to the 1960s and ’70s. and in some cases deteriorating. What council can do is lobby the provincial and federal governments to offer incentives to the building owners to improve the existing housing stock. Many years ago Langley City adopted a policy that existing rental stock cannot be stratified, therefore avoiding demo-evictions.
Through zoning council can also require rental-only developments, but presently there are no restrictions on rental purpose developments and many have been built over the past years. Several years ago we approved legalizing secondary suites so affordable housing would be available. Council can also require a percentage of units be designated to low-income housing. This is something I have brought to council, however to date this is not required, I will continue to pursue this.
A: Homelessness is the single biggest issue facing the City of Langley. Fixing the problem will require hard work and tough conversations. The City needs to take every practical step in its power towards addressing this crisis, while lobbying the provincial government for more resources to address it.
Currently, the burden is falling on community services and outreach groups that are under a disproportionate amount of pressure.
By addressing the social issues we can free up the police to deal with the crimes like the plague of auto theft occurring in the City.
I support prioritizing supportive housing. Supportive housing would ensure that people have a roof over their heads, and access to the treatment and services they need for dealing with mental health and addictions. This was the approach taken for the Whalley strip in Surrey—it has been a great success both in getting people off the street, and reducing the crime rate.
The biggest hurdle towards implementing supportive housing is the location. Langley City does not have a large land-base, and the amount of land that is directly owned by the City is small.
But this isn’t just a Langley City issue. I would advocate working with the Township and Surrey to secure land for modular-based supportive housing. It is possible to spread supportive housing throughout these communities so that they are better able to absorb the effects of their implementation. There will need to be consultations.
In the immediate term, there is still the problem of used needles and feces in public places. It is magical thinking to believe that if we leave this problem unaddressed it will solve itself. I would advocate for more needle disposal boxes in public areas and a public washroom in high traffic areas. The City must be practical about this problem.
A) As a council member for the City of Langley I would communicate a multi-pronged approach to implement the 2008 submission from Stepping Stone Community Services Society that was informed by their 2006 to 2008 BC housing pilot project outreach work with 40 to 70 people who were homeless, and ensure the rezoning of the Quality Inn with 49 units, integrative health services included, expediently as people who are homeless climbs beyond 200 people, safeguard our most vulnerable populations; children and seniors, with a zero tolerance to needles in parks, and advise Fraser Health Authority their decision was flawed to house people with addictions in Evergreen Timbers with seniors.
A: The City of Langley is facing ever-increasing challenges with homelessness, including open drug use, camping on public property and lack of washroom facilities.
Demand for services is increasing and placing more pressure on local outreach agencies. As a council member for the City of Langley, how would you go about addressing this problem?
The number of people experiencing homelessness in Metro Vancouver has been climbing over the last decade. The Metro Vancouver Regional District estimates that 4,000 people are in immediate need of housing, and that number will only continue to grow.
Reducing homelessness is not only the right thing to do, but it is also economically prudent. When someone is homeless, it costs taxpayers on average $55,000 per year in local and regional resources. It costs $37,000 to provide that same person housing annually, a significant difference.
One municipality cannot reduce homelessness alone; it is a regional challenge, and will take local governments working together with the provincial and federal governments to tackle.
As a council, we have lobbied for a specialized provincial team to tackle these complex issues. In partnership with Fraser Health & BC Housing, we are now connecting people who are homeless with the stable housing, and health & social services that they need.
This program has been successful but is now fully subscribed.
If I am re-elected, I will continue to advocate to ensure that this program is expanded, and that other levels of government provide resources for our community to address homelessness.
While supportive housing is funded by the provincial and federal governments, and operated by non-government or faith-based organizations, municipalities are responsible for approving zoning changes required for supportive housing.
I will advocate for new supportive housing in our regional centre as this is the only way to get people off the street and into a stable environment.
B: I think the City has a role in setting baseline requirements when it comes to approving developments, and can look to Vancouver for some inspiration, which in some cases requires at least 20 per cent of a new development be dedicated rental housing made available to low- to moderate-income households.
Some of the deteriorating homes that are replaced by new builds should be zoned as mixed-use to allow for services that can be easily reached by the tenants that move in.
This would alleviate some of the difficulties seniors with mobility issues encounter when trying to access the services they require on a regular basis. Large sections of Langley City aren’t very walkable, and more must be done to improve that.
Safety is a concern right now for many people who live in the Langley Lions, due in part from Fraser Health’s attempts to integrate mental health and addictions clients with the established low-income seniors cohort.
This stems from the fact that little housing is available for Fraser Health to work, making it difficult to keep these vastly different demographics apart.
This experiment has not had satisfactory results. The City needs to allow for proper housing to be developed to alleviate this pressure, or it must provide it itself, similar to what Surrey did this past summer.
Lastly, I think that overall the development that has been occurring recently is not using our available land as efficiently as possible.
Low density row-homes are not bringing enough supply to the market to prevent housing costs from increasing even further out of people’s reach.
The federal and provincial governments have both been attempting to cool price increases for the past two years or so with some success, and it’s time for the municipal government to start taking an active approach as well.
B: Langley City is fully developed. You can’t build something new without tearing something down first.
Langley City is already a leader in housing affordability. The 1999 Official Community Plan pre-approved greater density north of the Nicomekl floodplain.
In 2006, Langley City legalized secondary residences for greater density and affordability. Last year, we approved more new housing units than ever before. Currently, Langley City has the most affordable housing available in Metro Vancouver.
Also, we have a greater percentage of supported housing per person than most regional municipalities.
While houses south of the floodplain are being renovated or replaced, older buildings north of the Nicomekl are being replaced with multi-family residences for sale or for market rent.
Langley City collects Development Cost Charges (DCCs) from these new construction buildings to pay for needed infrastructure improvements. Also, higher density attracts more and better public transportation.
Langley City has already used most of the tools that are available for municipalities to create affordable housing such as: re-zoning for higher density, providing vacant municipal land (last used for the Gateway of Hope), providing density bonuses, offering alternative development standards (virtual parking option), adjusting development cost charges, expediting development approval (fastest in the region).
Properties waiting for redevelopment are held to community standards by our Bylaw Enforcement Team. In 2015, we received national recognition for our innovative strategies to offset demolition costs in order to encourage redevelopment.
I will continue to work with our Planning Department, the development community, social service agencies and higher levels of government to be sure that all available resources are used for reasonable amount of affordable housing options. Older supportive housing will need replacement soon. The dormant Langley City Development Corporation could be to used redevelop our downtown, generate new revenue and offset property taxes.
Please remember to vote Oct. 20
Shortly after moving to Langley City 23 years ago I started volunteering at Saint Joes Back Door Soup Kitchen. It was set up to help the less fortunate, those that were homeless and seniors.
It was a place for soup, conversation, a place to find clothing, food and to talk to outreach workers.
The need grew over the years and more and more people came in that were struggling.
Struggling with substance abuse, loneliness and mental health. The outreach workers were doing everything in their power to help but finding resources and housing were a concern for many.
Although The Gateway Of Hope has alleviated much pressure over the years I feel that they are not equipped the ever growing need of those faced with mental health issues and substance abuse.
Homelessness is complex and every human being has a story and reason why they are homeless.
Seeing seniors living out their lives on the streets in disheartening for they are faced with so many medical issues already.
As a society we have neglected to come together in addressing and working with those who face the constant struggle of mental health and survival.
There are far too many neglected
individuals fighting to end their pain through substance abuse. Some of our vulnerable youth are becoming victims to the streets and drugs. So it is systemic, the more we ignore the stories,factors,
traumas, poverty, addiction and mental health of the individual the cycle will continue.
Municipal government has to work alongside agencies and other levels of government to find viable solutions in finding supportive housing and services to help the most vulnerable heal. The
community has the right to feel safe and protected and we need to work together in ensuring that the citizens of Langley City have the best quality of life. The Langley Youth Hub listened to the
voice of youth and worked together with other stakeholders and partner groups in affording a place for youth to have a wrap around approach to care in one place. If elected on council I would like
to continue as a region in addressing homelessness, addiction and mental health. There is a lot of work to be done and there is no easy solution.
B: Low cost housing is being replaced in the City and more people are being forced out because they cannot afford to live in costly developments.
Many residents that have lived in Langley are having to look elsewhere and the challenge for them is that there is not enough available, accessible and affordable housing options specially for those who are on a fixed income.
This puts a great deal of stress on students, families and seniors to access housing that meets their diverse needs. The cost of living, aside from housing costs, as gone up considerably and does not measure to the cost of what many people bring in, specially those working at a minimum wage.
There are many seniors on fixed incomes that are challenged to afford a decent quality of life because of the cost of housing and living.
I worry about the amount of seniors forgoing looking after their own physical and emotional needs because of the stresses they are faced with.
I am a strong believer in inclusion and seniors have a lot to offer through life experience and lived history.
We need to work together with the Metro Vancouver Regional Housing Strategy and as a City Council hold accountable those who have promised to come up with more available affordable housing. I understand the need for development and its economic benefits but also understand that the diverse needs of those living in Langley City.
We need to come up with creative affordable sustainable housing through co-op housing, housing designed to bring people together and housing that serves the needs of seniors in the community and have them feel included.
If elected I would like to work towards looking at the National Housing Strategy, Age-friendly Community Strategy and BC Housing, so to come up with solutions in affording the citizens of Langley City accessible, affordable and appropriate housing options.