No. 164 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
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SOLVING THE HOUSING CRISIS
In Tofino, some of the staff who work in the restaurants and resorts have to camp in the woods for lack of a place to live.
On Salt Spring, people with jobs in Ganges, often with children, are routinely evicted each summer when their landlords want the higher tourist rents. The same thing happens on other Gulf Islands.
Here in Victoria, there may be as many as 1,000 people who live on the street, and thousands more who struggle to find anything more than a dark rental basement for $800 a month.
They certainly can’t afford to buy at an average price of $545,000 for a single family dwelling, $360,000 for a townhouse, or $292,000 for a condo.
Even if you do find a place for $200,000, you need $50,000 for a down payment and $1,000 a month for the mortgage. On the BC minimum wage of $8 an hour, your monthly income before deductions is $1280. On the entry level wage of $6, a young person earns just $960 a month.
For those who are fortunate enough to own a home they can afford, life continues peacefully. But there is an enormous problem brewing that needs a permanent solution.
In the 1991 census, only 54% of Canadians owned a home. Even if this is now 60%, it leaves 40% who do not own a home, and whose children will never inherit.
For those who do own, their children eventually inherit, which they often use to buy a more expensive home, driving prices higher.
Now think 50, or even 1,000 years ahead. What happens to those who don’t own, nor their parents? They are locked out of the housing market forever, generation after generation.
Without a solution, this leads to a permanent division between those who own a home and those who live in ranted trailers and basements, while doing the low income jobs the rest of society depends on.
We need to ensure that Canadian society is not permanently rift in two, into an Orwellian world of the Owners and the Underclass.
There will never be a market solution to this problem, for builders will never choose to build so much housing that it forces the market price to fall. It needs a political solution.
East Boston’s Maverick Landing consists of
411 LEED-certified, mixed-income housing units that feature
efficient lighting, appliances, and photovoltaics.
One solution is for Canadians to pay more taxes, so that governments (ideally municipal) have a pool of money they can use to buy land for affordable housing, including by establishing Community Land Trusts.
We could increase the property transfer tax (not applying it to lower priced housing), and use it to create a permanent Affordable Housing Fund.
We could increase our municipal taxes, so that the CRD Regional Housing Trust Fund, which is supported by all our municipalities except Oak Bay, Langford, Colwood, Sidney, and the Highlands, could be $5 million, instead of less than a million a year.
There are also solutions that cost nothing in taxes, such as requiring developers to build 20% of their units at an affordable price, and mixing them up so that they are not shoved off to one side as "poverty alley".
The social quality of many subdivisions that get approved is very weak. By requiring a higher density community core with a small shopping centre, including residences, people could meet each other, and reduce their carbon emissions by not having to drive everywhere. This is what North Saanich recently proposed, which was opposed so fiercely by some residents who were determined to stop lower income people from invading their haven.
We could also be far more creative in the types of buildings we allow, encouraging small energy efficient "grow-homes", the brainchild of Montreal architect Avi Friedman, where residents complete the second floor and the attic or basement in their own time, as their incomes allow. 6,000 grow-homes were built in the 1990s; 60,000 need to be built today.
We could do all this, and make them green, sustainable, non-toxic, and zero-net-energy homes, so that they are also a solution to the enormous global problem we all face, which is climate change.
How can it happen? Where is the political will? For most people, the problem is "out of sight, out of mind". There’s nothing like an occupation by homeless people to gain the attention of the media and politicians: but this could go a lot further.
To create the political will that is needed, all people who are struggling to find an affordable home must organize – not just the homeless.
On the Gulf Islands, and places like Tofino, those who are stressed for housing but have jobs could lay out their proposed solutions, invite a response, and if nothing is forthcoming, go on strike, first for an hour, then a day, then for a whole weekend in summer. The business owners would quickly wake up and demand that the problem be solved. For it can be solved, as soon as there is the political will.
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* Garlic: 25 bulbs/$27.50. The Drying Shed 478-2387 Local grower, Langford
* Can you help? Volunteers wanted at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, for trail upgrading. Joan 479-0211 email@example.com
* Victoria-based food co-operative is accepting new members for wholesale purchasing and food sharing. Rachel, firstname.lastname@example.org
* Prevent Cancer Now needs a volunteer treasurer. Can you help? Guy 250-881-1304 www.preventcancernow.ca
* Food co-op needs dry garage space in Victoria once every two months to receive orders. email@example.com
COHOUSING IN NANAIMO
Pause and dream, because this might have your name on it. Pacific Gardens is a planned Cohousing Community in Nanaimo that is getting ready to build on 4 acres of land in a natural setting with a pedestrian friendly design, lots of green features, participation in a car share coop, an organic garden and orchard, and the design features that are making cohousing popular. Cohousing owners have full privacy, and they can eat together when they choose, using shared community facilities. It’s great for anyone who wants a stronger sense of community, especially families. The Nanaimo project has ten owners, and needs five more to approve the construction loan and start building (zoning is already in place). See www.pacificgardens.ca 250-754-3060.
Pacific Gardens, Nanaimo
ARE CELL PHONES SAFE?
They’re everywhere, and becoming a "must have" fashion accessory among young people. But are they safe? Research shows that microwave radiation from cell and cordless phones can penetrate the skull, compromise the blood-brain barrier, and damage the brain’s DNA, setting up a risk of brain cancer. There’s a growing body of evidence that links cell phone and other electromagnetic frequency exposure to brain cancer, lymphoma, and neurological diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and dementia; and a study of 364 men in Ohio shows that men who used a mobile for more than 4 hours a day had the lowest sperm counts and the least healthy sperm.
Dr. George Carlo is a medical scientist and epidemiologist who was chief scientist of the world's largest research effort into wireless safety. In 1993, he was hired by the cell phone industry to study its safety. When his findings indicated extreme health hazards, however, his funding was cancelled and there was an attempt to discredit the findings. In his book Cell Phones, Invisible Hazards in the Wireless Age, he describes his research, and encourages consumers to protect themselves. He is also very active in organizing the Safe Wireless Initiative - see www.safewireless.org. On Wed Nov 1st he’s speaking here in Victoria (see Green Diary), and there’s a follow-up meeting on Wed Nov 15th to develop an action plan for safer homes, schools, and communities. For details, call Kerry Crofton, 595-1952.
Vegan in Victoria?
The Victoria Vegan
A new publication from Friends of Animals
SIERRA CLUB SMALL PARTIES
Climate change – it looks disastrous, so what can I do? Patricia Lane, who lives with her husband and son in Oak Bay, has allocated two days a week to work on climate change, and come up with a new approach to change that is fun, easy, and effective.
In a Sierra Club Small Party, you gather 5-7 people together in your home for a glass of wine and some great dessert, and watch a ready-made "home-spun" powerpoint that gets the main points across. Then you talk about what you might do, and people go away with commitments – including (for instance) to organize another such party.
Patricia organized her first party in September, and as a result, she and her party-goers have achieved the following: 5 conversations by participants with politicians; 2 with ADMs and Deputy Ministers; 4 high schools, 2 middle schools and 1 community college have been lobbied to get involved; 6 religious leaders have been brought together across their faiths to support each other to make their congregations carbon neutral; 1 family switched to low energy light bulbs; 1 family is switching to a high efficiency washer; and lots are making enquiries about solar hot water, heat pumps, and so on.
Zero burned out hosts, great conversations, lots of fun had all round. If you’d like to organize a Party, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eco-friendly Renovations Carpentry – Woodworking
Flooring – Design – CAD Consulting
Harald Wolf 882-9653
DOCKSIDE GREEN’S SEWAGE
With the CRD embarking on planning for sewage treatment, it’s important we make the best decisions. Before handing a contract to a traditional engineering company, we should look closely at what’s happening at Dockside Green, the eco-settlement that’s being built in Victoria (www.docksidegreen.ca).
By using dual flush toilets, waterless urinals, and water-efficient taps, showers, dishwashers and washing machines, they are reducing their water use by 56% compared to normal, saving 39 million gallons a year and $152,000 in the annual cost of water – enough to cover the operating cost of the sewage treatment plant they’re building.
By using less water, they have also reduced the capital cost of sewage treatment (including energy use) by 50%, while gaining attractive creeks and ponds. Rooftop rainwater collection will irrigate balcony planters, stormwater run-off will be reduced, and there will be excess treated water available for sale. Overall, it’ll use 66% less water than normal, or 90% less if the un-used treated water can be used in other nearby developments.
Meanwhile, the CRD is looking spending $100 million sometime in the future to treat water from the Leech River to increase the supply to Victoria’s Sooke Reservoir, as our population grows.
We could save the $100 million if we gave financial inducements to developers to use low flow Dockside Green type sewage systems, and if some of the money that will be spent on sewage treatment was spent on low-flow community-scale sewage treatment plants, as Dockside Green is doing.
The CRD could also give rebates to encourage the re-use of greywater, rooftop water collection, smart in-house water meters, and to assist developers to use similar methods.
The secret is to plan for our future water use and water disposal (sewage treatment) at the same time, in an integrated manner, so that the savings on one can create savings on the other. It makes enormous sense.
Stephen Salter writes: I've just returned from eight days in Sweden, seeing the waste-to-energy & biogas plants, and driving a biogas-powered car literally fueled by the people of Sweden. I went expecting to see cutting-edge technology, but instead saw real common sense applied to community planning.
The results are wonderful - whole communities heated by "waste heat" through district heating, and buses and cars running on biogas."
Using existing technology, an ecologically designed sewage plant can produce biodiesel for buses, biogas for cars, heat for buildings, and usable organic waste.
During November, the Victoria Sewage Alliance and others is offering four Community Forums on "Treating Waste as a Resource in Victoria", so that we can learn what’s happening in Sweden, and apply our minds to creating the very best system of sewage treatment and water use in the world for a city of our size. This is a huge opportunity to get it right, so please try to come. (See Diary)
Talk about impact. Each baby born in Canada will create a tonne of soiled diapers by the time she or he is toilet trained, except the 5% who use reusable diapers.
Sheesh! Southern Vancouver Island produces 20 tonnes of personal hygiene product waste every day from diapers and adult incontinence pads. It all goes to a hole in the ground, where it produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Companies like Pampers work hard to delay the time of toilet training - if they delayed it much longer we could go straight from baby pads to adult pads and scrap toilet training altogether. Anyway, into this mess steps
WasteNOT, a Nanaimo team which wants to establish a disposable diaper recycling plant on the Island, using proven Canadian technology. (It would be the 4th in the world).
Michelle Bigg and Gail Adrienne, our two green heroines, are very environmentally minded, and they need your help by filling in a user interest survey on their website at www.wastenotvi.ca.
In addition to the recycling plant, they hope to offer a pick-up service for used cloth diapers and drop off for freshly laundered cloth diapers. Way to go, girls! Contact: email@example.com.
A tonne of diaper waste per baby
CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTIONS
On Sat Dec 2nd I am running a full-day course at Royal Roads University on The Global Climate Crisis: Seeking Solutions that Work. The course will provide an in-depth examination of the entire range of solutions that could enable the world to achieve a 90% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030, the level needed to avoid the catastrophic "tipping point" that climate scientists are warning us about.
We will cover all the changes needed, from sustainable electricity to transport, heat, deforestation, farming, community planning, and generating the political will to achieve these changes. The course will hopefully equip you with a firm grasp of what’s needed, and how it can be done, both locally and globally. The course costs $95. To register, call Hilary at 250-391-2600, ext 4801.
DAVID KORTEN IN VICTORIA
David Korten writes: "Following the Sept 11 2001 terrorist attack on the US, the administration in Washington spoke openly of using the full power of U.S. military forces to impose imperial order on the world. These actions made overt a larger imperial agenda, and triggered recognition of the extent to which contemporary relationships between people and nations are shaped by the same dominator patterns that became established with the rise of the first empires in the Tigris Euphrates and Nile river valleys some 5,000 years ago."
"I decided I must write a book that would reveal the nature and implications of this connection. The result is The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, which places the step we humans must now take to a new level of species maturity and a creative balance with one another and the Earth in the larger context of the overall sweep of the human experience. I am also launching Earth Community Dialogues, aimed at changing the conversation about our local, national, and global possibilities."
David has made a life journey from inside the US establishment to a place of deep commitment to a new vision of the world. He is also author of When Corporations Rule the World. He is speaking at UVic on Friday Nov 3rd, and then leading a Community Dialogue at Royal Roads on Sat 4. (See Diary). See www.davidkorten.org and www.vbnetwork.ca
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some noteworthy sites that have passed my way
- BC Marine Environmental Policy blog, by Gerald Graham
- Best Practices for Media and PR: www.fenton.com/pages/5_resources/1_bestpractices.htm
- Betty Kraczyk’s Blog: http://bettysearlyedition.blogspot.com/
- Breathing Earth: www.breathingearth.net
- Canadian Youth Delegation to Nairobi (COP-12): http://cydnairobi.ca/Gateway/Welcome.html
- Climate Change, Statement by Evangelical Leaders: www.christiansandclimate.org/statement
- Earth to America (Blue Man Group): www.blueman.com/earth
- Email list of MLAs: www.kootenaycuts.com/archive/?7802
- Freecycle: www.freecycle.org (3,554 members in Victoria)
- LEED for Neighbourhoods - The Scorecard: https://www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=959
- Miniature Earth: www.miniature-earth.com
- Tackle Climate Change, or Face a Deep Recession: http://environment.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,329610661-121568,00.html
- TerraCycle Plant Food: www.terracycle.net
- Voices from the Amazon: www.guardian.co.uk/guardianweekly/outlook/story/0,,1896810,00.html
- WasteNOT: www.wastenotvi.ca
- Wise Democracy: www.wisedemocracyvictoria.com
- YouTube 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change (30" with Guy Dauncey): http://youtube.com/watch?v=T9J1cZHY-Uc
- YouTube Vote-Rigging Software (10"): www.youtube.com/watch?v=wviWDGm9mNg
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