Marketing biases need addressing

Columnist ML Burke writes that both renters and developers are being unfairly maligned

This column was going to be about downsizing, listing the pros and cons of whether to rent or buy. However, this subject will have to wait because of two related issues that are wrongfully trending. It concerns developers and renters, and how both groups are being unfairly maligned.

Issue one – Developers: On June 21st, a letter to the editor of the Delta Optimist from Ivor Hewitt objected to the Tsawwassen Town Center development permit for a six-story mixed residential/commercial building, which I heard (and hope) may be a rental building.

Mr. Hewitt’s headline read “Make objections known to Town Centre proposal.” He wrote, “This town is for the community it serves and not for lining the pockets of builders and developers.” The letter seems to be protesting only the pains of construction with no mention of what the building will be or how it may or may not contribute to the community. How does he know this proposal won’t be an improvement? Currently, it is just a parking lot. I also wonder if this is a prelude to a new NIMBY war, like the Southlands’ fight.

The mindset that developers are just self-interested money grubbers is so yesterday. I used to think this as well, but that was 50 years ago. In fact, it’s a high-risk “business” and many go broke in the process. Without developers we wouldn’t have homes, stores, hospitals — any buildings, really. Even if you built your own home, you would be a small developer.

So let’s move on from the hate-fest that labels everyone with the same brush. There are good and bad amongst all of us, and I believe Century Group is one of the better developers. Century is proposing a revamp of the Tsawwassen Town Center mall. According to the drawings, phase one features a six-story market apartment building along with a shorter commercial building, both with underground parking. South Delta is in dire need of more condos, especially one and two-bedroom rental units. Having six stories rather than four will help to reduce costs to future tenants, be they owners or renters. It’s pretty simple. Higher density creates more affordability.

I believe the overall plan will be a great improvement on what is there now. It will have more green space and community gathering places as well as mixed residential units and commercial shops, just like a little village. I know the construction part can be a pain, but the end result will make it worthwhile. My hope is they will include more affordable units for middle and lower income folks by installing less expensive finishings and appliances in some units.

Issue two – Renters: I’ve noticed a new term being used for market rental buildings. They are targeting the “discretionary renter,” which means those who choose to rent instead of own. In other words, people with wealth. This suggests that ‘discretionary renters’ are more desirable than the vast majority of renters who just want a well-built, affordable home.

This attitude is elitist, divisive and discriminatory. They may be marketing to appease the NIMBYs, but it is wrong and will only hurt our communities in the end. Healthy communities are inclusive of all income levels, cultures and abilities. Our recent Canada Day celebrations showcased this acceptance of diversity, which reminded me how fortunate we are to live here.

ML Burke retired from the health sector to work on issues such as affordable housing. She sits on the Delta Seniors Planning Team and the BC Seniors Advocate’s Council of Advisors.

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