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Housing, growth, crime among issues tackled at Langley City council all-candidates meeting

All the council candidates running turned out for the event
Langley City council candidates debated in two groups at a Chamber of Commerce event on Wednesday, Sept. 30. (Screencap/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

An all-candidates meeting for Langley City council candidates saw them answer questions about crime, homelessness, taxes, development, and transportation on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at KPU’s local campus.

All 14 City council candidates attended the debate, which was organized by the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce with the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board. They answered questions in two groups, and were followed by the mayoral candidates.

Housing affordability was the subject of the first question asked by moderator and chamber CEO Cory Redekop.

Longtime Councillor Gayle Martin noted that the City has seen a massive change in how much interest it gets from developers.

“There was a time we had to beg for developments, but not anymore,” she said.

Adjusting sizes of condos and looking into some subsidized and below-market housing was necessary, she said.

A recent housing inventory “identified some significant gaps” in the City’s housing stock, said Coun. Paul Albrecht, adding that the City needs to reduce the gaps between types of housing.

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“It should almost be framed as the unaffordability of our community,” said Delaney Mack, who said a diversity of homes, including laneway houses, and partnerships for below-market rentals, were needed.

A related question on homeless prompted Cherise Okeymow to note that there wasn’t nearly enough temporary transition housing.

“I think that’s a big gap when it comes to housing the homeless,” she said.

Mike Solyom said there are supposed to be “four pillars” to ending homelessness in B.C., but all too often efforts rely on just one pillar.

Working with community organizations that are already doing a good job was David Stingl’s recommendation.

“Homelessness is a community issue, it requires a community response,” said Leith White, adding that the City has qualified for a lot of grants it has not applied for on this issue.

Crime and prolific offenders generated a number of responses.

Jennifer Elderkin said that increasing the number of police officers the City hires by six is on the table, as well as CrimeWatch programs.

“First off, you need to give police officers and bylaw officers something to work with,” said Jeff Jacobs, saying the “revolving door” approach is not working.

“I can tell you that I’m frustrated with the prolific offenders as well,” said Rudy Storteboom, suggesting that the City needs both its own community court, like Vancouver, and a precinct or RCMP substation at the downtown SkyTrain station when it opens in 2028.

A question about the speed of development approvals in Langley City led some candidates to speculate that development was moving too fast.

“I think our resources could be better used elsewhere,” rather than speeding the process up further, said Shelley Coburn.

“Our development requests have been coming in like wildfire,” said Terry James, adding that with the fastest approvals in the Lower Mainland, she didn’t want to see public hearings on projects removed.

“I think there is no need to expedite that,” said Gurjit Dhillon. “We don’t want to compromise safety.”

“I think public consultation is important,” said Rosemary Wallace.

The candidates also answered questions on SkyTrain and transportation, cannabis shops, and the importance of preserving industrial lands in the downtown.

The entire debate can be viewed online.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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