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Letters Jan. 19: 'Missing middle' anger; banning booze ads beats warnings

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A crane towers above the Pearl Residences construction site between Mermaid Wharf and the Janion buildings hear the Johnson Street Bridge in Victoria on Jan. 13, 2023. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

What was missing? Good management

Re: “Why does ‘missing middle’ housing make people so angry?,” Jan. 15.

The letters in response have provided a good answer to the writer.

My peers and I were responsible for making a large organization learn and change.

“Change is good! (You go first)” we liked to say because it acknowledges facts about change: Change is the constant; people aren’t generally happy about change; change means risk … among others.

Change management, well done, requires empathy, trust, integrity, transparency and courage to communicate truthfully and respectfully, and especially empathetically (and a lot), with those affected. It’s tough. It’s a ton of work. It can include a lot of being yelled at.

With apologies to all the writers who correctly pointed out the many failures of this change initiative, I’ll summarize: Missing Middle made people angry because it was so badly managed.

I’ll add that it’s not necessary to make people this angry to make difficult change happen.

Stephen Ison

Victoria

They don’t have a chance of buying a home

Re: “If you want something, work for it,” letter, Jan. 18.

If it only it were so simple to purchase a home these days: skip Starbucks and work hard.

We purchased our home through hard work and sacrifice 30 years ago. We paid $175,000 in 1990, which equates to about $400,000 today. Our assessment is $1.2 million this year.

Most kids don’t stand a chance of owning a home in the city they grew up in, no matter how hard they work.

Ed Lien

Victoria

Province’s ‘one-stop’ permit not near enough

The provincial government’s new “one-stop shop” to homebuilding permitting is a step in the right direction to help increase the number of new housing units. However, it is not near enough.

This “baby step” will not solve affordability as provincial and municipal governments are significant contributors to the unaffordable housing crisis. They impose excessive taxes, fees and development charges, have lengthy approval times and insist on overlapping building codes to not only new housing but, in some cases, to the purchase and renovation of existing stock.

Most of these are excessive, some unnecessary, others avoidable, and unfortunately many are net revenue generators as opposed to setting levels to offset the regulatory- and compliance-related costs.

In May 2018 the C.D. Howe Institute, a registered Canadian charity, published a report that concluded that regulatory barriers to building new housing in Canadian municipalities was a significant contributor to housing costs.

In Victoria, with an average house price of $720,000 (2016), the barrier costs were calculated as $264,000 per unit. These values may be significantly greater today.

One unassailable example of excessive costs that directly affects affordability is the Property Transfer Tax that a buyer has to pay when purchasing a home (some restricted exemptions).

On a $800,000 house, the tax is $14,000 that has to be added to the cost of purchase. Imagine a young family scraping up the minimum down payment, then must find an additional $14,000 to immediately give to the province just for them tapping a few computer keys, when those funds could have contributed to mortgage payments. That hinders affordability.

Kudos to the province for recognizing their responsibility and implementing a small affordability step. Much remains to be done.

The province should take a leadership role and, together with municipalities, review the C.D. Howe Institute report, consult with homeowners, builder and developer associations, and change their burdensome policies quickly.

That will improve home affordability.

N.G. Giuliany

Colwood

Council (and staff) need reality checks

What is going on at the City of Victoria?

That’s the question most Victoria taxpayers are asking after learning of a proposed 8.99 per cent property tax increase in 2023.

Despite economic factors including inflation, labour shortages and supply-chain-disruption challenges, Kelowna is looking at a 4.01 per cent increase. That includes a special one per cent levy for public safety.

Despite covering funding additions of one per cent for infrastructure renewal, two per cent for policing services, and two per cent for the remainder of municipal services, Vancouver is mulling a five per cent hike.

Despite RCMP costs expected to go up seven per cent this year, Richmond property owners could be paying 5.88 per cent more in taxes in 2023.

Often the outlier, the City of Victoria wants 8.99 per cent more in property taxes to run the municipality. That’s far above inflation and despite healthy development growth and increased assessment, significant reserves and a substantial annual surplus in 2021.

Then if you are unfortunate enough to operate a business, your final property tax bill will be 3.646 times as much as a residential property per $1,000 worth of assessment. It’s all paid for by customers.

Then, which business or homeowner can afford to voluntarily contribute to a reconciliation donation fund, beyond what’s already provided by taxpayers in an annual city grant?

Council (and staff) need to also be asked about priorities, especially when you consider ongoing substandard critical infrastructure such as roads, swimming pools, park washrooms and other public facilities.

In these extraordinary inflationary and possibly recessionary times, what instructions were provided to staff in preparing this proposed budget? Business as usual is surely not an option.

So, coddy wobbles, 8.99 per cent.

Stan Bartlett, vice-chair

Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria

Cut consumption by banning ads

My takeaway from the new alcohol intake guidelines and warnings is how different this approach is to the well-documented evolution of tobacco warnings over the decades.

Warnings on cigarette packages came extremely late in the game. Tobacco bans on television ads, billboards promotions and sports sponsorships happened long before tobacco companies were forced by legislation to put warnings on their products.

As long as the federal government allows alcohol peddlers to have free-speech advertising rights — which tobacco companies no longer have — then the average Canadian is unlikely to be influenced to change their alcohol consumption behaviour because of a label on a bottle.

Trevor Amon

Victoria

Getting the most out of our forests

If Premier David Eby is serious about saving jobs and creating more added value from our forests, then he should stop the raw export of logs now. From the Port of Nanaimo alone there were 18 freighters loaded with raw logs from January to October 2022. As a former NDP premier once said: “Worth more standing.”

Paul Elworthy

Victoria

Gwyn Morgan gets it backward

Re: “Net-zero fantasy has empowered dictators,” column, Jan. 11.

Is there no end to irony? Retired fossil-fuel baron Gwyn Morgan offered some seriously misguided opinions about “net-zero zealots,” suggesting that those of us who support a fossil-fuel-free energy future somehow empower Vladimir Putin.

But here’s the rub: aside from being an outrageous insult to anyone who cares about the worsening state of Earth’s climatic stability, Morgan’s views are exactly backward.

For years, Morgan has encouraged untrammelled consumption of oil and natural gas and decried adoption of renewables, all the while ignoring the serious and expensive impacts of global warming.

It is precisely such a position that has contributed to keeping demand for fossil fuels high, thereby enriching coffers in Russia and other autocracies like Saudi Arabia.

If Morgan was serious about constraining the power of detestable dictators like Putin or Mohammed Bin Salman, he’d turn his intellectual prowess toward encouraging more rapid adoption of renewables and reducing international demand for fossil fuels.

It is efforts like that that will disempower oil-rich dictators, not the opposite.

Thomas F. Pedersen

Saanichton

Those birds exist so they can be eaten

Re: “Ask the geese about their problems,” letter, Jan. 18.

I am an old grouse and a biologist bursting with indignation at the misteaching of the ecological role of animals. Rabbits, geese, deer are next to the bottom of the food chain (plants are bottom) and they support the upper levels. Let me rephrase that bluntly: They exist to be eaten.

So a flock of geese represents a large number of delicious, high-class meals (the breast meat is dark by the way). And for heaven’s sake they are not dog food!

But I know one objection that will come to your mind: they might have parasites. I assure you, all wild animals have parasites, and this is one of the false reasons they are not sold in supermarkets. But let me remind you, the greatest of all inventions is still fire.

Never eat raw meat, handle carefully and cook it — bye-bye parasites.

Relocating geese? My pan is ready.

Joe Harvey

Victoria

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