A time for regular folks to shine and grow in the city they call home. Why I am running for City Council in Vancouver.
In 1999, I was pregnant, 20 years old and looking for employment. My plans to attend college were temporarily dashed and I needed to find a secure job and place to live fast.
Fortunately, I met a small business owner in my local neighbourhood of Kerrisdale who hired me to work at his fledgling security company. The job gave me confidence and the chance to support myself and my child. As a result, my family was able to put down roots in Vancouver and grow in the community where I worked and lived.
There are 22 Business Improvement Associations across Vancouver from Commercial Drive to the West End and all are home to numerous locally owned and operated small businesses. These same businesses make up the heart and soul of Vancouver’s High Streets or the main commercial street in each neighbourhood. Small businesses bring charm, vibrancy, and opportunity to the residents and communities surrounding them.
The three greatest threats to small business in Vancouver are the soaring rents, property taxes and finding and keeping staff. Enough with punitive measures to restrict and limit small business, it’s time to incentivize and enable success in any way the municipal government can.
Business owners are trying to stay positive while rents for some businesses have skyrocketed nearly 80 percent in the last 12 months. Small businesses located near new construction are seeing a dramatic spike in property taxes the result of assessments calculated on the value of the higher end properties. Municipal government must work and put pressure on the provincial entities to promote a fair and incentivized approach rather than one that is unpredictable and punitive. (Compounding this issue are the long waits for business licenses the result of more bureaucracy and red tape.)
There are many businesses that, despite soaring rents and property taxes, are still doing okay. But they too are closing and for a completely different reason. Vancouver’s affordability and housing crisis is not news. Yet, for some, the surprising byproduct is everyday folks are being priced out of a housing market and leaving because they have lost hope. The exodus of people is devastating to Vancouver’s small business and industry. We must support a well thought out housing strategy that doesn’t only sound good but can also be implemented through leadership that has a proven track record in doing so.
We can’t ignore the fact small business provides an opportunity for regular folks to shine and grow in the city they call home.
As we can see, a single-focused approach does not work. We live in one of the most beautiful diverse cities in the world and we must deal with the current problems in a holistic way. Let’s ensure we care for our people by fostering a culture at City Hall that supports success for small business, industry and the everyday people that work there.
I know if my boss hadn’t had the opportunity to start a small business in Vancouver the picture of my family could look very different today. Because the security company I worked for was able to thrive, I had a job and was able to stay in Vancouver close to my siblings, parents, grandparents.
We have a support system and infrastructure that may inadvertently contribute to widening the divide between the haves and have not. We are faced with an important decision in the coming days and need to look closely at which candidates will truly do the best job of meeting the needs of all Vancouverites.