South Surrey-White Rock candidates were challenged at a homelessness and affordability forum Wednesday not so much by the questions posed, but by the time allocated to provide their answers.
More than 170 people attended the event at Gracepoint Community Church. Event organizers Peninsula Homeless to Housing (PH2H) emailed the questions to candidates one week before the forum.
On stage, the candidates either read directly off their prepared answers or referenced notes. However, the one-minute limit occasionally prevented candidates from making their point before a red light signaled time was up.
The event also included a number of questions from the audience, vetted by PH2H.
Beverly (Pixie) Hobby (Green), Stephen Crozier (NDP) and Gordie Hogg (Liberal) attended the forum.
The candidates stopped adhering to the timer near the end of the forum when asked, by a member of the audience, if there was any social or co-op housing initiatives they intend to support.
After taking turns on the mic, Hobby jumped back into the conversation to say that both she and Hogg believe municipalities should take a closer look at zoning and planning to create opportunity for below-market housing.
“And if I could add to Pixie’s brilliant comment,” Hogg said, “when the city can change their zoning, they can actually allow larger set-backs and larger heights in exchange for ensuring that there is dedicated lower-income rent within it.”
PH2H chairman Rick Bayer, who moderated the event, attempted to move to the next question but Crozier seized on the opportunity.
“I want to thank Gordie and Beverly because they allowed me a little bit more opportunity to talk about market housing,” Crozier said, adding that there are too many empty buildings, empty apartments, empty condos and empty lots.
“We don’t have market housing, we have a market that is driven by money, speculation and profit.”
A senior who said she is paying more than 61 per cent of her income on rent asked what the candidates’ plan is to assist people in her situation.
“I think that the guaranteed livable income would go a long way… particularly given that the amount that a person would receive is in relation to the cost of living in our area,” Hobby said.
Hogg pointed to a lack of rental housing development as a contributing factor to high rents.
“Rental rates have (been) sky rocketing, that’s why we need to move to more development of rental housing,” Hogg said.
The model of having rent not be allowed to exceed 30 per cent of the median income of the area is a positive step forward, he added.
Crozier said that a guaranteed annual income makes sense, and he pointed to an experimental project initiated in Dauphin, Man., in the 1970s.
“The NDP government got voted out and the Conservative government shut it down, unfortunately,” Crozier said.
“We had something way back then. One problem with rental housing and why it hasn’t been developed is because developers are looking for more profits than what they deserve. We need to get corporate development out of our housing.”
Conservative candidate Kerry-Lynn Findlay and People’s Party of Canada candidate Joel Poulin were invited to participate in the forum but did not attend.
Poulin, a real-estate agent, tweeted his apologies for not being able to attend. He wrote that his fiduciary duties prevented him from leaving a contract negotiation.
Findlay emailed PAN a statement Thursday, saying that her “hectic campaign schedule” did not allow her to attend the forum.
Thursday, event co-organizer Joan McMurtry said she was “shocked” that Findlay didn’t attend, adding that it was the first time a major candidate had not attended a PH2H forum in 10 years.
McMurtry told PAN that Findlay did not inform event organizers that she wouldn’t be participating.
However, that point was disputed by Findlay.
“I sent my regrets well over a week ago, so you can understand I was a bit puzzled to hear that they set out a chair for me at the event,” Findlay wrote.
Editor’s note: PH2H chairman Rick Bayer spoke to PAN, following the publication of this article, and said that Findlay’s team did, in fact, reach out and offer regrets.