It's a common refrain in Canada's urban centres that there's a chronic homelessness problem that isn't being addressed, with many of the main concerns being the lack of coordination between federal, provincial and municipal governments to try and create a unified program to address homelessness.
This isn't going to change, at least not until the May 2013 provincial election.
It won't change at the federal level, where the Harper government doesn't have any interest in addressing homelessness and poverty.
That leaves an immediate response in the hands of our municipalities, the level of government with the least amount of funding available to it, which makes many people believe it has the least ability to actually effect change in such a wide-ranging policy area. In fact, the municipal governments have a wide range of options available to start actively combat-ting homelessness, particularly in British Columbia.
The key is in the Local Government Act; two obscure sections of the Act that are too deep in the details for some people. In part 26, division 7, sections 904 and 905, the Local Government Act provides municipalities with the ability to increase the density of a given part of any zone, in concert with the developer. These sections also indicate that municipalities can attach conditions to the developer in exchange for that increased development. Those conditions can comprise only two things; amenities, which the Burnaby city council has asked for often in the new large scale towers being produced, and affordable or special needs housing.
What is stopping our municipal governments from taking a stand with developers and the industry and obtaining some real progress on affordable housing?
Trevor Ritchie, Burnaby