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The Vancouver Sun
Monday, January 31, 2011
By Kim Pemberton

Affordable housing, parks to receive budget boosts

Vancouver City Council will decide Tuesday where to spend its $337-million capital budget, with priority going to creating affordable housing, community centre developments and more park space.

Affordable housing, parks to receive budget boosts

The budget will also provide funding to support the city's green initiatives, including improvements to cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, work on sewer separation and initiatives related to the solid waste plan.

"The most significant thing about this budget is it's obviously hitting on providing support to many areas," said city manager Penny Ballem.

"There's significant investment in parks, affordable housing, our social services along with bread and butter city public works."

In June 2009, council requested city staff adjust the capital budget to "bring greater oversight, a longer-term planning horizon and incorporation of all capital-related programs into the annual budget, regardless of funding source."

The report going to council next week will provide an update on the $150 million worth of projects, undertaken through the federal government's infrastructure program.

Among the recommendations for the 2011 capital budget:

  • $22 million to be spent on creating new affordable housing, and to either buy land or contribute money toward the development or renovation of existing facilities.
  • $19 million toward public safety, of which $11 million would be spent on new police facilities and improving existing Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service infrastructure and contributing $8 million toward a new Urban Search and Rescue facility.
  • $14 million to be spent on parks, playing fields and other outdoor recreational amenities.
  • $23 million for upgrades to community centres and park board facilities, including $16 million for Trout Lake Community Centre and $2.5 million for Riley Park Community Centre.
  • $9.5 million for strategic transportation initiatives to improve pedestrian safety plus $10.5 million on enhancing safe cycling infrastructure.
  • $6 million on child care facilities and equipment.
  • $2.5 million toward Phase 1 of the Hastings Park/PNE capital plan recently approved by council. This would include an internal trail and park connector through to New Brighton Park, the Plateau Youth Sports Park and the reinstatement of the enhanced Empire Field facility.
  • $16 million to transform information technology tools and improve customer service at City Hall. The city plans to create one unified online system by consolidating the existing 20 separate permit and licensing processing and tracking systems.

The largest chunk of the budget, $137 million, is earmarked for public works, to go toward the city's "Greenest City" initiatives, which include improving the sewer system, upgrades of water delivery infrastructure to enhance water quality, and ongoing investment in the expansion of the neighbourhood energy utility program.

The city has also committed $2.5 million, and is partnering with senior governments, towards the cost of a 10,000-square-foot seniors' centre in southeast Vancouver.

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