UBC prof Patrick Condon aims to shake up Vancouver mayoral race

Update Friday, July 13 at 9:35 a.m: Condon has ended his nomination campaign after being hospitalized due to a stroke on July 10. The announcement was released this morning.

UBC urban design professor Patrick Condon is looking for a spot in Vancouver’s mayoral race this fall on a housing-centric platform informed by his scholarly and community work. He is currently seeking the nomination of the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), Vancouver’s oldest progressive party in a crowded mayoral race.

Condon joined UBC as chair of the Landscape Architecture Program in 1992, and recently founded the Urban Design Program at UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. He has worked extensively on urban design projects in the Vancouver area, including collaborating with the city of North Vancouver on a 100-year sustainability plan to reach carbon-neutrality by 2107. Altogether, the professor brings 25 years of experience in urban planning and sustainable design to an election that hinges on the issue of affordability.

“My academic work has been entirely focused on how cities get built, how to make them sustainable and most importantly, how to make them affordable for average people,” he said.

Condon added that he was pushed to enter the political ring this year after a decade of “frustration” with the trajectory of Vancouver’s development.

“I saw pretty clearly that nothing was being done to stop the flow of international capital into the city,” he said. “Particularly because I had to look my students in the face every day and knew that they were probably not going to be able to afford to live in the city — not even college graduates — it started to become intolerable for me.”

Students and faculty alike feel the pressure of climbing rents, which can impact how students think about their future in Vancouver after graduation. When he asked a class of 200 undergraduates if they saw themselves being able to live in Vancouver, Condon noted that he saw only a handful of raised hands.

“I just think that is so sad, and it is not normal. That’s not the way cities should be and it’s not the way other cities are,” he said.

“If you look at the regional average income and you look at the cost of rental and entry-level housing, you realize that only people making the average income and above can afford to live here. That’s a disgrace to the human race.”

Vancouver’s affordability crisis is not completely unique. Cities around the world suffer from inflated rents and shrinking affordability, particularly ‘global cities’ like London or Shanghai that are positioned at the nexus of international financial flows. In Vancouver’s case, Condon suggested the effects of rising costs are particularly pronounced due to a lack of jobs and sufficient wages.

“If students want to stay in Vancouver, they better hope that an alternative market is created that is big enough to possibly include them,” said Condon.

One such alternative is non-market housing, which he wants to see make up 50 per cent of Vancouver’s housing inventory — a sharp increase from the city’s current 15 per cent. This follows the model of Vienna, a city that recovered from a drastic housing crisis in the early 20th century and now houses around 60 percent of residents in non-market housing.

“When a substantial amount of your housing inventory is non-market, it also lowers the rents on the market side because the market rentals also have to compete with the non-market rentals,” said Condon.

When asked if he feels hopeful about Vancouver’s ability to return to a healthy housing market, Condon said both yes and no.

“No, because it would be quite a revolution for what I’m talking about to occur,” he said. “Yes, because I don’t think we have any choice.”