The following is Stephen's comments at the June 9th 2022 Council Meeting to reconsider referral of the Missing Middle Public Hearing.
Missing Middle Reconsideration
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This is one of the most important motivations for a motion that I have given in my time on council.
I want to be clear at the outset – this is a motion to reconsider referral back to staff, before holding a public hearing of what is termed the “Missing Middle Initiative.”
The reconsideration is NOT – as some have portrayed “support or approval of the initiative.”
If the motion is successful, we then consider the original motion to hold a public hearing on the proposed land use changes.
I cannot stress enough for the public – this IS NOT approval of the initiative.
Now to why I bring the reconsideration to the table…
When I voted in favour of referral, it was clear from my public comments that I was concerned about the amount of time between a proposed Open House and the Public Hearing.
At the time, my perception was, there was a tremendous amount of confusion about what the Missing Middle Initiative was – and what it isn’t.
Comments at the table appeared to me to be dismissive of the public’s unease with the process, and there was prescriptive language about the amount of time the public would have to consider information and prepare for the public hearing.
To be blunt – it appeared to me there was urgency to this issue and there was a specific timeline that supporters want to achieve.
My vote was not intended to defer this issue to the next council, stall the process, kill missing middle or any other iteration on that theme. I wanted TIME to consider what was before us.
When I voted for the referral, I believed there would be time for the issue to come back before THIS council.
The language that came from supporters – even those at this table - was that “it was NOT possible and there was “no time to have staff review and return to council with additional information.”
It can be argued that if supporters wanted this issue to be decided by this council, such a significant public policy land decision should not be left to the remaining weeks of this council’s mandate. It’s bad planning and should “time be of the essence”, then I suggest we sit during the summer break in August to ensure we do our best to deal with this matter.
Whatever position anyone takes on the missing middle initiative, it needs to be considered by THIS council within the duly statutory process set out.
That means a public hearing – where comments and input are received on the record from supporters and opponents.
It is inappropriate to have this debate behind closed doors, base our decision on anonymous twitter statements, emails, calls and meetings. This initiative needs to be discussed in an open and transparent way in public – through a public hearing.
But there is a warning before we take this vote – from all the comments in the public – there is significant distrust that a decision has already been made and we are just “going through the motions” of listening to the public.
I assure everyone – I have not made up my mind, but I MUST trust the process.
There is a belief that we have not sufficiently engaged the public.
I agree – from the comments and concerns raised – whatever we believe has been sufficient, there are areas for improvement. This is not a criticism of staff – it is a reality of the situation.
We repeat the statement “there’s been two years of engagement.” While that may be true – we have all been buried in our own lives during the pandemic, more concerned about our jobs, health, and families. This has NOT been a “regular environment”, and for anyone to proffer that as a defense to moving forward because “we had enough engagement” is disingenuous.
If this reconsideration motion passes, my expectation is we WILL provide more than two weeks of consultation between the open house and the public hearing. If that isn’t achieved, we will be back to where we are today.
We cannot turn initiatives, that are part of a housing strategy, into an US or THEM scenario. We cannot make this about RIGHT or WRONG.
We need to listen to all voices and create a path forward that is collaborative. We need more housing. We need to clearly define what missing middle is and what we want to achieve.
It’s not about affordable housing – and everyone who continues to bring affordability to the table as motivation – and I include BC’s Housing Minister in this – clearly didn’t read the real estate economist’s report. This is about -- SUPPLY.
So, I hope that most of the council will support this reconsideration.
Subsequent, I hope that council will support the public hearing with sufficient time between the open house.
And I hope that there is a concerted effort to publish of the details around missing middle, the open house, and the public hearing to ensure that ALL residents know what’s going on. If that means additional resources to promote engagement – then I will be prepared to add a motion later in this meeting.
We need to do better – we need collaboration to achieve a successful result. I hope everyone agrees.
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