It’s hard to believe it’s almost the end of 2016 – and what a year it’s been! From building thousands of new homes to meeting many of our Greenest City targets, I’m proud of everything we’ve accomplished together this year. We know affordability remains a top concern for many Vancouverites, and we’re struggling with a devastating fentanyl overdose crisis in our city, but we’ve got big plans for at City Hall in 2017. But first, let’s take a moment to celebrate some of the highlights from the past 12 months:
Affordable housing is the number one issue we’re facing in Vancouver, and it is our top priority at City Hall. Over the last five years, our housing market has changed dramatically, impacting everyone from young families to seniors, from students to new Canadians, and many are struggling to find secure and affordable housing. Housing needs to be for homes, not just to be treated as a commodity. That’s why we focused our energy this year on supporting the creation of as many new homes as possible by offering 20 sites of City-owned land to build thousands of co-op and rental homes, approving well over 1,000 new market rental units, and working with community partners on projects like Vancouver’s first Community Land Trust. We also created Canada’s first empty homes tax and are regulating short-term rentals like Airbnb to help ensure homes are available for local residents. And we’re not backing down – the 2017 Budget commits $80.1 million to affordable housing, the biggest one-time investment in housing in Vancouver’s history.
This year we also took big steps forward in our work to be the greenest city in the world by 2020. We’re working hard at City Hall to ensure residents and visitors have a variety of sustainable transportation options and with over 50% of trips now made on foot, by bike, or public transit, our efforts have paid off. After years of negotiation we secured the Arbutus Greenway for public use, a historic opportunity to create a great connection across our city. We’re particularly excited about the newest addition to our transportation network, Mobi bikes, Vancouver’s public bike share program which has already reached over 100,000 rides since launching this summer and is now able to grow even more thanks to Shaw and the new Mobi by Shaw Go sponsorship. We created an Electric Vehicle Strategy to build a charging network across the city. There are also big improvements on the way in 2017 for Metro Vancouver’s transportation network as we secured a $2 billion investment which will increase transit service – new B-lines, more frequent buses and skytrains and reduce congestion across the region. That’s the first increase in transit service in almost a decade. With these achievements and more, Vancouver is well on its way to meeting our commitment to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
One of the reasons Vancouver is such a great place to live is our shared commitment to building community, to fighting for equality and inclusion, and our respect and appreciation of the diversity of cultures in our city. At City Hall, we continuously review our own policies to ensure we are accessible and inclusive of all residents’ needs, and this year we were proud to implement a new Access Without Fear policy and a Trans*, Gender-Variant and Two-Spirit Inclusion Plan. We brought in a Living Wage policy to make sure city workers and contractors make a fair wage. As our nation celebrates Canada 150+ next year, we will continue to build on our work as a City of Reconciliation in partnership with local First Nations and the Urban Aboriginal community. From the Vancouver Mural Festival to immigration service groups and everything in between, I’m honored to support the many organizations and communities who are working to make our city even better.
As this year comes to an end, I’m already looking forward to 2017 and everything we’ve got planned. It’s set to be a great year, with next steps on getting the Broadway Subway built, Vancouver leading the country in economic and job growth, and we’re ready to keep moving forward on our shared priorities of affordable housing, transportation, greenest city, and more.
Thank you again for all of your ideas and engagement this year. We couldn’t do this without you.
On behalf of the City of Vancouver, I wish you all a safe and very happy holidays.
Mayor Gregor Robertson