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HomeBusinessTough crowd at Lynn Valley Legion for Mike Farnworth, where housing critics were sharp and on-target

Tough crowd at Lynn Valley Legion for Mike Farnworth, where housing critics were sharp and on-target

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Bob Mackin

B.C.’s Deputy Premier was already scheduled to visit Lynn Valley on March 26, to rally the troops for North Vancouver-Seymour NDP MLA Susie Chant’s re-election campaign. 

Someone in the government communications department thought it would be a good opportunity for him to promote the month-old, election year budget.

Mike Farnworth faced criticism from North Shore social service agency reps on March 26 in Lynn Valley (Susie Chant/X)

A dozen representatives of local social services agencies came to meet him at the Lynn Valley Legion. Not one wearing NDP orange pom-poms. 

First to speak was Don Peters, the longtime chair of the North Shore Community Resource Society’s Community Housing Action Committee. He described his agency’s mood as “grim.”

“Frankly, there are no affordable rents on the North Shore, certainly not at shelter rates,” Peters said. 

“Many callers to the agency are desperate in these times of soaring rents and normally zero vacancies, and we fear for the plight of increasing numbers of near-homeless North Shore renters,” Peters said. “More often than not, seniors.”

Peters pointed to West Vancouver council’s rejection of proposed protections for Ambleside corridor apartment renters last November. A watered-down version passed at the end of February and there is no guarantee it will help seniors stave-off real estate tycoons looking to transform the area for a younger clientele. 

Peters also pointed at Victoria and Ottawa for doing too little, too late. 

“Despite another flurry of federal and provincial housing interventions and announcements, we feel real housing relief is years away,” he said. 

Farnworth repeated the NDP talking point about restricting Airbnb in order to free up inventory. He said he realized the housing crunch is a national problem, while talking to a cab driver en route to an airport.

“He explained to me how Montreal had a reputation as being affordable, not anymore. We hear the same thing in Toronto, in Calgary and Alberta, they’re talking about,” he said. “It is frustrating because we’re making a lot of changes, that will benefit as you said in the long the longer term. And it’s the short term right now that I think is the big challenge.”

B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth (Mackin)

One attendee said she noticed an uptick in abused women choosing to stay with their abusive husbands or return to them, “purely because they can’t get housing.”

“It’s very, very horrific, it’s not for the faint of heart. These women are choosing to stay in those situations, because the only other option is to be homeless.”

Another said the $10-a-day childcare rollout “hasn’t gone that well” for parents with special needs children, who additional red tape and costs. 

Farnworth offered more platitudes. But no solutions. 

“Housing is for people, housing is for families. Housing is not, in essence, a commodity. Housing is for people and it’s for communities,” he said.

“If you have that stable base, then you’re able to maintain the social network, you’re able to access the services that you require.” 

Last to speak was Deborah Buxton, 70. The former NDP party worker lost her job as a family support worker, became homeless in January 2022 and lived in her car for a year. 

“I just can’t work like I used to, I would be willing to, I just can’t,” said Buxton. “I got health issues like most people my age.”

Hollyburn Family Services found her shelter in the Lu’ma Native Housing Society-managed Travelodge near Marine and Capilano. Tenants at the facility, mostly people with addictions and mental illnesses, are being evicted at the end of May, to make way for condo tower construction.

“So I don’t know what the government can do. I just don’t think they’re going to be able to help.”

The hour came to an end. Farnworth did more listening than selling the NDP’s election year budget. He briefly seemed overwhelmed. “Whatever ideas you’ve got, bring them to the table. Because, what we’ve seen up until now clearly has not worked in terms of making sure there’s housing.”

As for that invitation to media, only Global BC cameraman Pat Bell and this reporter showed up. After one of the attendees expressed reservations about appearing on the TV news, Farnworth admitted he was unaware of the invitation. 

“I’m surprised as well,” he said. 

* * *

And another thing…

Farnworth was also unaware of a sombre local anniversary.

Memorial bench near Lynn Valley Library (Mackin)

He was scheduled to join Chant and her supporters later for a round of door knocking before a round of drinks at Brown’s Social Pub near the Lynn Valley library.

It happened to be the eve of the third anniversary of the deadly stabbing rampage in Lynn Valley Village square. 

Farnworth admitted to this reporter that his staff did not brief him about that. 

On March 27, 2021, drifter Yannick Bandaogo randomly killed a woman and injured several others. Last summer, he pleaded guilty to second degree murder and attempting to murder five other people. A B.C. Supreme Court judge sent him to jail for at least 15 years. 

Five days before that awful afternoon, an amateur photographer captured images of an apparently homeless Bandaogo sleeping behind the building that houses Chant’s office.

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