In 2014, I proudly became the first Millennial ever elected to Vancouver City Council. My campaign was built with the purpose of creating affordable housing- and to be a voice for millennials, families and seniors who are being pushed out of housing in the city they love.
Unfortunately, a lack of action and partisan politics blurred the vision of city government. After 10 years of broken promises, Vision Vancouver announced it was going to start over and hit the RESET button. Their new plan makes grand promises and boasts an abundance of affordable family housing by 2026. Sadly, the numbers don’t add up and even if they did, families in our city can’t wait 8 more years…
I am shocked that many candidates with no experience in housing, are now self-proclaimed “housing experts”. I fought for affordable housing in Vancouver before it was a popular issue. I can tell you that it will take more than campaign promises to dig our city out of this crisis. Affordable housing is a problem, but it isn’t the only burden that forces families to pack up and leave.
The cost of living is the culprit, and the city needs to be a part of the solution, not the problem. Housing, childcare, property taxes, user fees, cost of goods, timelines for building and development permits… it all adds up and the taxpayers in this city are tapped out.
I was somewhat encouraged during my first year as a City Councillor, when my motion for Affordable Home Ownership passed, with the support of all parties on City Council. Sadly, my excitement was short lived when I realized that there would be no action. Supporting my motion was only a political ploy by the ruling party in power. After voting for affordable home ownership, they buried it- citing they couldn’t move forward with it this term.
I could have been cynical, but I put pen to paper and continued to bring forward policy ideas. Motion after motion, I tried desperately to address permit times, family housing, rental suites and rising property taxes. Most of my motions were denied, called out of order or shut down- I can’t count the number of times my microphone was turned off! I didn’t (couldn’t) let them silence me, or the people I was speaking for…you know, the people who couldn’t be there to speak to City Council because they work during the day, so they can pay their bills! I took a deep breath and soldiered on… fighting to expedite affordable housing, more safe child care spaces and lower taxes.
I have advocated for affordable housing both in and out of the Council Chambers. I bring knowledge from years of working in development and housing, in both private and non-profit sectors. I have kept going with my work in non-profit housing because it reminds me of why I set out on this adventure, to help unlock affordability in Vancouver. It also helps me to think outside the box and consider new and innovative solutions. Most of all, it reminds me that developments are not just buildings and that a home that is torn down is not just a part of a land assembly. Instead, they are places that real people call home.
My reasons for running and my commitment to building a family friendly Vancouver has not wavered. However, there was a big change in my life in 2017 -that showed me the world through a different lens. Her name is Lilienne and she is my 13-month-old daughter. In 2017, while serving on City Council, I became a Mom. My husband and I can’t imagine under current circumstances how she will afford to live in Vancouver when she grows up.
I am fortunate enough to live in the City of Vancouver and if you can vote in this Vancouver civic election, you are too! Housing won’t become affordable overnight, however, with meaningful consultation with Vancouver’s 22 unique communities, we can find practical solutions to affordable housing and childcare.
So, why am I running for City Council again? I am running for my daughter and future generations. I want to bring my expertise in development to making family housing and child care facilities more affordable. I want to be a voice for the families and seniors, who were silenced by a government who refused to listen for 10 years.
We don’t have time to look back- and complaining won’t help. I have practical ideas that will make a dent in the affordability crisis and help real people and families struggling to afford to live in our city. With 71 Council Candidates running in this election- Actions speak louder than words.
Alone, I can’t fix housing or make it more affordable. But I am determined to bring my experience and work together with the community to build a family friendly Vancouver.
Melissa De Genova is a community leader, a mom and the first millennial ever elected to Vancouver City Council. She is running for re-election in the October, 2018 Civic election. Melissa has over 15 years of experience working in land-use and housing development. She works with a non-profit organization to create and secure affordable housing for seniors, persons with disabilities and their families throughout BC. In 2016, Business in Vancouver recognized Melissa on their “Forty under 40” list for her leadership in creating affordable housing. Her campaign is driven by her commitment to build a family friendly city. Find out more about Melissa De Genova, and her campaign for re-election degenovaforvancouver.com