Victoria mayoral candidate Steve Filipovic isn’t afraid to campaign on issues others might consider radical — such as establishing permanent tent communities to house the homeless around the city.
And for those who have jobs and rent houses but don’t meet mortgage financing requirements to buy a place to live, Filipovic, 44, would push city hall to make it easier to set up housing co-operatives that allow people to pool their resources, enabling them to afford ownership.
Pointing out that 63 per cent of Victorians rent housing rather than own, he said that changing bylaws to encourage co-op housing will remove many financial hurdles to home ownership.
As mayor he said he would fight to change zoning regulations to permit more co-operative housing construction as well as allow older homes to be renovated into multi-unit co-ops.
He would also push council to require developers to incorporate rent-to-own units in future housing developments.
Filipovic envisions allowing three to five tent cities around the city, each with about 60 residents, complete with cooking facilities, washrooms and showers, and governed by their own elected councils — much like Dignity Village in Portland, Ore., the only city-sanctioned alternative housing tent city in the United States.
Prospective locations for such tent cities include the Cridge Centre for the Family and public works land on Bridge Street, said Filipovic, who owns a small construction company bearing his name, Filipovic Residential Service.
The cost saving to residential and business property taxpayers would be enormous, he said.
“Taxpayers spend, on average, $55,000 per homeless person without providing them with reasonable shelter” when the extra policing, clean up and health-care costs are factored in, said Filipovic, a Green Party member who campaigned for the party in four federal elections and was Green provincial candidate in Victoria-Hillside during the 2005 provincial election.
With proper housing, that cost could easily be reduced to $28,000 annually or less, said Filipovic, who ran for mayor in 2008 and finished third.
Despite the city’s $200-million annual budget, compared to just $104 million a decade ago, he said there is “very little to show” for the huge increase in spending because councillors and the mayor do the bidding of either the NDP or the Liberal/Conservative teams that aided in their election.
“I expect these teams to spend $60,000 each to win control of our $600-million budget,” said Filipovic, who lives in Vic West with his partner Leah and their daughters Vivian, 3, and one-year-old Corina.
“Our city continues to waste our tax dollars ignoring issues instead of addressing them,” he said.
On the matter of economic growth, Filipovic said he would fight hard to implement programs and incentives designed to develop high-quality goods and services as well as increasing locally grown organic food, and to steer us away from dependency on fossil fuels.
Although Victoria has signed a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2012, “we are not even close” because the city has “done very little to reduce our targets.”
The city, he said, will likely have to buy expensive carbon offsets from a Crown corporation that channels the money into corporations needing subsidies to improve their energy efficiency.
He considers this a “huge backward step” in fighting climate change compared to Saanich, which he said has programs to reduce its carbon footprint.
Under his leadership, Filipovic said he would create “an open and accountable city hall that is run democratically rather than by the established Old Boys Club that virtually dictates how the city is run.”
Claiming he already has a solid block of 4,000 voters who support him, Filipovic believes that if his somewhat unorthodox platform can attract a fraction of the 47,000 eligible voters who don’t normally bother to vote in civic elections, he will become the city’s next mayor.
He strongly believes the additional 4,000 voters he needs to win are people who are upset at the status quo and will look to him for change. There are about 64,000 registered voters in Victoria.
“We do not have an accountable government,” said Filipovic. “It is not functioning for the majority of Victoria.”