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

A heavy police presence was on scene on Dec. 28, 2017 following the shooting death on Bates Road in Abbotsford of Alexander Blanarou, 24, of Surrey. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Three men charged with Abbotsford shooting death of Surrey man

Alexander Blanarou, 24, was killed in a rural area on Dec. 28, 2017

A criminal trial for Robert Boule (inset), the owner of the Smuggler’s Inn, is to begin in August 2021, following a failed application to strike down immigration-act provisions that he is charged under. (Photo courtesy of The Northern Light newspaper)
Blaine inn owner’s challenge of immigration act fails

Robert Boule’s trial on human-smuggling charges set to begin August 2021

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Mirandy Tracy, left, and Tara Kurtz are two Langley mothers who are organizing a "sick out" for Tuesday, Dec. 1 to protest COVID conditions in schools. They're calling for masks and smaller class sizes, among other things. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Politician, labour leader throw support behind student Sick Out day

Langley parents started the movement to keep kids home on Dec. 1 as a protest

A family emerged with a purchase at the Tannenbaum Tree Farm at 5398 252 St in Aldergrove on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Christmas tree season is off to an early start

People are ‘bored’ with staying home due to COVID-19 and want to decorate early, farm owner believes

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

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A convoy of seven pickup trucks, six of which were hauling boats, makes its way around the Chilliwack Law Courts on Dec. 1, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
First court date for Fraser River anglers ticketed during demonstration fishery

Convoy of trucks circled the courthouse in downtown Chilliwack Tuesday honking their support

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Most Read