Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz speaking at the Urban Development Institute's 2014 panel of Fraser Valley mayors Wednesday at the Langley Events Centre.

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz speaking at the Urban Development Institute's 2014 panel of Fraser Valley mayors Wednesday at the Langley Events Centre.

Fraser Valley mayors talk seniors housing, transit

Mayors from Surrey to Chilliwack questioned at Langley forum hosted by Urban Development Institute

Housing and transit issues dominated a forum of Fraser Valley mayors organized by the Urban Development Institute Wednesday In Langley.

The panel discussion featured eight mayors from Surrey to Chilliwack – most of them running for re-election – and was moderated by Vancouver real estate consultant Michael Geller.

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman said neighbourhood design needs to take into account the growing numbers of seniors who are used to driving their cars but may be vulnerable to suddenly losing their licence.

“The loss of that independence can literally train wreck them,” Banman said. “Their life as they know it can change in a heartbeat.”

Developers can help by finding ways to provide housing seniors want within walking distance of the shopping and services they need, he added.

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz also urged developers to design senior-friendly housing that fits into complete, walkable neighbourhoods.

“I think we have to get past the idea of these gated communities – I can’t stand them,” Gaetz said.

“It really isolates people from each other and lets them live in an artificial world. That may feel more secure to them. But a healthy community has integrated races, people and ages.”

Mayors were repeatedly asked how cities can make housing more affordable in the Lower Mainland.

Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese said many Fraser Valley communities – including his – need to find ways to get more rental homes on the market.

“Not everybody wants to own a house,” he said.

The audience included many major development and home construction firms.

Froese said developers want to build as efficiently and profitably as possible, but noted municipalities must plan carefully with an eye to the future.

Future residential development in Langley’s Brookswood area will be controversial, he said, but called it a logical fit with development just to the west in Surrey, where the Campbell Heights industrial park is increasingly a magnet for jobs.

Geller said he’s “astounded” at the number of young people in the region who don’t have driver’s licences or opt for car co-op services instead of owning their own vehicle, in part to save money for a home.

But Banman said it makes no sense to reduce parking requirements, particularly in single-family residential neighbourhoods, until adequate transit is available.

Providing high-quality transit in the Lower Mainland shouldn’t be that hard, he said, compared to other metropolitan areas that sprawl in all directions.

“We basically go east and west,” Banman said. “Don’t tell me we can’t figure out how to move people east and west in a 100-mile corridor.”

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, who is leaving civic politics to run as a federal Conservative, said attempts to densify single-family neighbourhoods with narrower streets and tighter homes can backfire, pointing to the failed “experiment” in Surrey’s Clayton neighbourhood.

“It is an absolute disaster because everybody relies on a car.”

Watts then slammed the provincial government for continuing to suggest Metro Vancouver mayors raise TransLink property taxes to fund a critical transit expansion, rather than put proposed new sources of revenue to a Metro referendum.

“That’s the way this provincial government wants to go,” Watts said, admitting she’s frustrated. “They want it on property tax. We’ve been doing this for seven years. Now there’s a referendum. They’re still not moving on the referendum. They said we need to take the lead on their initiative. And we’re back to square one.”

Mission Mayor Ted Adlem argued transit riders should pay higher fares.

He noted Mission taxpayers send $760,000 a year to TransLink for the West Coast Express station in their community but no contribution comes from Abbotsford, home to about 40 per cent of the commuter train passengers who board there.

“It shouldn’t be on the backs of the taxpayers, it should be on the back of the rider,” Adlem said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

CBSA seized 64 bricks of suspected cocaine at a border crossing in the Pacific Highway District. (CBSA photo)
$3.5 million worth of suspected cocaine bound for Canada seized in Pacific Highway District

Tractor-trailer hauling personal care products included 64 bricks of suspected coke

A bowl from Obey Poke, part of Joseph Richard Group’s Meal Ticket Brands launch in 2019. The program is now known as Canteen: A Virtual Food Court, at wearethecanteen.ca. (file/submitted photo)
On #TakeoutDay, Surrey restaurants urge direct meal orders, not second-party delivery

Dowtown Surrey BIA says ‘we can help support restaurants that already have a lot on their plates’

Vintage scrapbooks gave way to Instagram and Facebook. (Photo: Ursula Maxwell-Lewis)
COLUMN: Prince Philip just got on with it—to our surprise

Ursula Maxwell-Lewis reflects on the passing Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

Parliament Hill is shown in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. The Trudeau government has agreed with the Senate that Canadians suffering solely from grievous and irremediable mental illnesses should be entitled to receive medical assistance in dying — but not for another two years. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick photo)
Self-advocates ‘sad, scared, angry’ over revisions to assisted-death legislation

Bill C-7 was expanded to include access to medically assisted death for non-terminal conditions

The South Point Exchange Wendy’s location was ordered closed for 10 days due to COVID-19. The closure took effect on April 9, 2021. (Google Streetview screenshot)
COVID-19 prompts 10-day closure of South Surrey fast-food restaurant

Fraser Health confirms order for South Point Wendy’s was issued April 9

Vancouver police say eight people were arrested Wednesday after anti-pipeline protesters blocked off both the entrances and exits to two buildings in the downtown core. (Instagram/Qtcatspictureclub)
8 people arrested after anti-pipeline protestors chain themselves to Vancouver buildings

Cst. Tania Visintin said demonstrators caused ‘a serious safety hazard’ downtown for hours Wednesday

Jamie Coutts recorded a man following her around downtown Vancouver for a half-hour on Wednesday, March 18. (Instagram screenshot/Iammjammbamm)
Man charged in alleged high-profile Vancouver stalking case that went viral online

Man faces five other charges including criminal harassment and assault with a weapon

A new Lower Mainland study will examine feline COVID-19 transmission using data gathered from up to 40 cats living with newly infected adults. (Pixabay)
CDC conducting mobile kitty COVID tests outside of Lower Mainland homes

Researchers are probing whether humans can transmit the coronavirus to household pets

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A sea lion swims past the window of an empty viewing area Vancouver Aquarium is pictured Thursday, September 10, 2020. The Vancouver Aquarium has had to close its doors to the public due to the lack of visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
U.S.-based theme park company buys Vancouver Aquarium

Aquarium had to shut its doors in September due to COVID pandemic

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

A deep cut on a humpback whale is shown in this recent handout photo in the Vancouver area. A conservation organization is warning boaters to be extra careful to prevent further harm to an injured humpback whale swimming in the Vancouver area. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Ocean Wise, Vanessa Prigollini *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Boaters urged to use caution around hurt humpback off Vancouver

Ocean Wise says watchers first noticed the wound 3 days ago and believe it was caused by a vessel strike

Most Read