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Letters Nov. 29: Downtown safety should be a priority; what Victoria can learn from Hong Kong

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Victoria police on foot patrol near Our Place on Pandora Avenue. Letter-writers say public safety in the downtown core has been deteriorating and needs more attention from the city. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Compassion needed, but so is safety

Re: “Victoria businesses mulling moving after random violence ­downtown,” Nov. 25.

I live in the building next to Gregg’s Furniture, at the Bay and Government intersection, and I can attest to the lawlessness we witness every day.

From human feces on the ground to syringes and violent encounters. I think people who do not live around it cannot truly comprehend the impact it has on the lives of all residents and businesses in the area.

After someone attempted to break into my house, I talked to my neighbours, and they also shared with me numerous personal experiences in which they felt threatened and unsafe.

Several women reported being chased and verbally abused, even having to run into an adjacent office building in search of protection.

Let’s have all the compassion we need for unhoused people, but let’s not ignore the safety and health of our streets while we do so.

Bruno Welte

Victoria

Criminals downtown need more attention

Re: “Victoria businesses mulling moving after random violence downtown,” Nov. 25.

About three days ago I got off the bus at Douglas and Fort, and within 10 seconds a grubby man in a dirty hooded jacket stepped in front of me and threw a punch at my face.

Fortunately he stopped his blow just inches from contact, so what would have been assault was “merely” an unprovoked threat of physical harm.

Over the past years Victoria citizens and businesses have become victims to an ever-increasing amount of crime effectively facilitated by woke politicians, outreach workers and the legal system; all of which lump together those who genuinely need and could benefit from help with an ever bolder criminal element.

It is not a crime to be homeless. It is not a crime to be an addict. It is not a crime to have mental problems. But it is a crime to assault people, to steal, to vandalize, to threaten.

Many people are afraid to go downtown; businesses are robbed and vandalized and are moving out.

There may be a goad to action in the future. I see that these problems in ­Victoria are beginning to be exposed on YouTube.

Maybe when the tourists which are seen to be so precious refuse to get off their cruise ships over concern for their safety, effective action will be taken. Certainly the safety of those who live here has not been a consideration these past years.

Ian MacDonell

Victoria

Whose city is this? It’s time for action

Re: “Victoria businesses mulling ­moving after random violence ­downtown,” Nov. 25.

Does Victoria belong to the taxpayers, the successful business owners, the ordinary working people who are struggling to make ends meet these days, or to the increasing number of mentally ill, addicts and homeless?

Come on, newly elected representatives. Our once safe and beautiful city is becoming a threatening place to go out for any reason at any time.

Urgent action required, health and safety first, for all.

Judith Hodgson

Victoria

Victoria can learn from Hong Kong

Victoria cannot evolve into the best of Hong Kong, but the worst may be inevitable if we do not rethink our approach to urban planning generally.

One elephant in the room: Is there any limit to the “ideal” population for any of our interdependent municipalities in the context of fragmented governance/funding responsibilities?

Why can’t Victoria be the best of HKG?

HKG has been a controlled environment from its colonial roots to the present, subsuming our three levels of government into one. It is simply easier to make decisions and coordinate everything for housing and 20-minute communities.

Integration of transit ensures access to anything, anywhere. Unlike Victoria, HKG has retained its transit infrastructure with newer, costlier systems complementing older, paid-for options available at pennies to anyone (with a tourism bonus).

In HKG, 67 per cent of the land is green and protected. That was not a primary interest when our government “owned” largely unceded land.

HKG sells land to garner funds with strategy not seen locally. We sell the silver, trading off amenity contributions to encourage developers already wanting density who should give, not get, to expand profit.

The worst of HKG?

Briefly, some areas provide shocking living conditions: results when need for housing transcends other considerations.

Proportionate response to all needs keeps the system in balance. Victoria is not in balance.

What is Victoria to be in this interconnected region, and how can that work? Informed by dreams but conscious of reality in light of current concerns, we must find our way.

John James O’Brien

Victoria

Tell new arrivals that they cannot stay

Re: “Maybe we’re full, so stop building,” letter, Nov. 26.

Our new city slogan should be: “VICTORIA. Sorry … we’re full.”

Karin Knowlton

Victoria

Speculation tax needs to be revised

As a Canadian living outside of Canada, I find the speculation tax to be unfair, badly conceived and badly in need of revision. I should be completely free to own a residence in my birth country without being encumbered by a burdensome tax.

Further, let’s be honest, the administration of this tax must be a costly exercise, and one may wonder what is being accomplished. Premier David Eby, I think revision is necessary for this clumsy tool.

Jerry Korpan

London, U.K.

David Eby’s card trick won’t create housing

Premier David Eby’s legislation to prohibit rental-restriction bylaws in strata-title properties reminds me of a story of faulty logic that my dad told from his days as a child, freezing and starving, in Finland during the early part of the past century.

The blanket that he and his siblings shared to cover them at night was too short and would not cover their feet. So their mom cut six inches off the top of the blanket and sewed it onto the bottom.

When she tucked them in at night and covered them with the blanket she spread it so that it covered their feet. The problem was solved until they pulled it up again to cover their shoulders.

The proposed legislation will shuffle the deck. But it will not create more housing.

Rick Kallstrom

Victoria

Legal rights are trashed with no consultation

I am an angry condo owner, incensed by Premier David Eby’s arrogant and despotic decision to legislate away the legal rights of thousands of condo owners, and I ask: What has he or his government done about the skyrocketing insurance rates condo owners have had to cope with? Nothing! He has likely just added to that cost pressure.

The government has stated that this legislation will permit the rental of condos sitting empty that currently are not permitted to be rented. Really?

How many condos are sitting vacant because owners are constrained by bylaws from renting them? If I bought a condo in a non-rental building and then decided not to live in it, would I let it sit empty, continuing to pay monthly maintenance fees? Not likely. Most owners in these circumstances would sell.

Contrary to what a recent letter-writer stated, the “ambience” of our strata is the least of my concerns. Escalating costs and the ability to meet proper maintenance standards is a primary concern.

Absent landlords are often more concerned with personal profit than adhering to depreciation report recommendations.

But what is most concerning is that we have a premier and government who feel justified in overriding legal rights without any consultation or thoughts of unintended consequences. It’s not just condo owners who should be angry.

Pat Jackson

Victoria

Blindsiding owners with the condo law

We bought into our condo building because in our late stage of life we want owner-occupied neighbours of similar age.

It was in the democratically decided bylaws of our building that anyone under 19 and renters were not allowed. That’s why we bought our suite.

Now there’s a risk that we may have to move to a more expensive single-family house, though I don’t know where we could afford one. The government has introduced in this legislation a home insecurity of a different sort.

Shame on the NDP for behaving like dictators. This legislation will destroy small condo communities like ours, where everyone knows and supports each other.

Better to apply the legislation to new condos where people know what they are buying into rather than blindside those who are well-established in their chosen condo community.

Brad Zembic

Victoria

Condo ownership will be more costly

Premier David Eby’s proposal to prevent strata corporations from having age and rental restrictions defies logic.

Such a change will encourage non-resident owners/investors (some will be offshore) and drive up prices, making condo ownership for residential purposes more expensive.

Strata councils will be forced to deal with issues involving renters when owner/investors refuse to be involved. It is inconceivable how this will ease the housing crisis.

A good example of politicians looking for a quick simplistic solution to a complex problem with no appreciation for the unintended consequences.

R.A. Green

Victoria

Property tax ideas usually increase costs

Originally called the property purchase tax, the property transfer tax was first introduced in 1987 by finance minister Mel Couvelier under premier Bill Vander Zalm.

It was introduced as a wealth tax to discourage speculation, and cost one per cent on the first $200,000 and two per cent of the remainder. About 95 per cent of home purchases did not qualify at the outset as they were below the $200,000 benchmark!

It was presented as a temporary tax, but as the average B.C. home price continued to increase, governments, regardless of party, couldn’t part with this lucrative new revenue stream.

A revenue stream, it should be noted, growing at the rate of inflation in the B.C. housing market. Today the tax generates billions to the government coffers, and I’m sure the idea of it being temporary has long passed.

Perhaps as a minimum these funds should be specifically earmarked to support affordable housing versus disappearing into general revenue.

It is amazing how our governments forget. The tax was originally a speculation tax, but several years later finance minister Carole James, under Premier John Horgan, introduced another speculation tax that continues today.

History confirms when governments get involved in free markets, increased costs usually result. That said, I don’t hold much hope that Premier David Eby’s recent housing initiatives will lead us to the promised land.

Mark Appleton

Victoria

Try for a compromise in strata housing changes

Kudos to the government for trying to improve on the lack of housing issue. However: At what price to democracy and our constitutional property rights?

Having been a renter, strata owner, homeowner and landlord at various times I know there are challenges with each. We choose what we can afford, but we also choose the type of environment we prefer for a variety of reasons.

Blanket policies lack nuance that can create as many problems as they purport to solve. This one will create a lot of stress and conflict among strata owners, especially during the transition period and resulting court challenges.

One tweak that would make it easier would be to allow stratas to be either all owner-occupied or all rental, with those that already allow some rentals to be converted to all rentals.

N.M. Caplette

Victoria

Domestic shipyards are too busy to build for us

Re: “B.C. Ferries seeks shipyards to build up to four vessels,” Nov. 24.

I think it is laudable that B.C. Ferries has gone out domestically and internationally for indications of interest from shipyards that can handle new construction for the small ferries we now require.

The local reality is that Canadian yards are chock-full building ships for the Navy and Coast Guard for the next 20 years, so it is unlikely that any will be able to respond. The good news for B.C. taxpayers is that if the contract is let to a foreign yard, as before, the price of the ships will likely be half what it would be if they were built domestically.

A partial win, at least.

David Collins

Victoria

These days, who are the socialists?

Re: “B.C.’s projected surplus soars by $5B,” Nov. 26.

B.C. Liberal finance critic Peter Milobar must be a pretty funny guy. This is a dude who’s an MLA with the party of extravagant Olympics, fancy stadium roofs, corporate welfare in the name of “free enterprise” and torn-up collective agreements.

But now, they have the temerity to criticize Premier David Eby and the NDP for not dumping cash fast enough into social initiatives, and helping those struggling to make ends.

Boy, it’s getting hard to tell who the socialists are these days.

Yup, Peter, you make me laugh.

Phil Smith

View Royal

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