Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts frustrated by lack of government funds for transit

Fraser Valley Mayors UDI | BCBusiness
Mayors Ernie Dakin, Maple Ridge; Ted Schaffer, City of Langley; Deb Walters, Pitt Meadows; Ted Adlem, Mission; Dianne Watts, Surrey; Bruce Banman, Abbotsford; Sharon Gaetz, Chilliwack; Jack Froese, Township of Langley; and moderator Michael Geller.

A panel of Fraser Valley mayors fielded questions about housing and employment at an Urban Development Institute lunch on October 8

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts expressed frustration with the lack of provincial and federal support for transit at a recent Urban Design Institute event. “The idea that a transportation system can be funded on the property tax is the most ridiculous thing I think I’ve ever heard,” said Watts. “The whole system needs to be reworked, because when you’ve got a government that controls a body that makes the choices, nobody’s going to get anywhere. That’s why we have almost a million people south of the Fraser and four stops of a SkyTrain station—and 70 per cent of the region’s growth is coming south of the Fraser.”
Watts was responding to a question about whether reducing parking for rental housing would make it more affordable. Citing her municipality’s Clayton neighbourhood as an example of how reducing parking without transit in place causes problems, she said, “It is an absolute disaster because everybody relies on a car. It’s a mess.”
Some 220 developers and business people attended the lunch at the Langley Events Centre October 8th. Moderator Michael Geller, past president of UDI, addressed a range of housing issues including affordability and how to accommodate an aging population.
The communities are increasing density and providing a variety of housing types from laneway houses to secondary suites. Abbotsford is considering covenants on affordable housing so the price doesn’t become market driven and is promoting single level housing to help seniors stay in the community. In the Township of Langley, adaptable housing will accommodate owners as they age.
Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz recommended not making assumptions about the aging population. In her community, seniors are expected to increase from 17 per cent to just 23 per cent by 2035, plus not all want the same sort of housing, she said. Some prefer a large home to share with their children, while others look for a complete community where they are not dependent on cars.
Apart from keeping taxes low and approvals quick, the mayors had a number of strategies for increasing jobs in their communities. Dianne Watts recommended looking at opportunities to grow existing sectors and businesses. To provide a range of job opportunities in the community, Pitt Meadows is committed to developing lands for industrial, office, institutional and mixed-use, building on the 3,500 skilled jobs created by the Golden Ears Business Park.
Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese emphasized collaborating with other municipalities and governments. The Campbell Heights industrial park in neighbouring Surrey will produce “hundreds and hundreds of jobs, and those people have to live someplace. So when we have on the border a big industrial site right next to a municipality, a residential area coming in, that’s where we work together.”

Langley is also collaborating with Surrey, Abbotsford and the province to increase the capacity of 16th Avenue to move goods, services and people. “We have to plan the type of neighbourhoods that people want to move to and businesses would like to locate in because they know that they have a place for employees to live,” said Froese. “Everything we talk about today really has to do with increasing jobs and growth.”