January 11, 2018 / 2:23 AM / 9 months ago

Vancouver mayor will not seek re-election amid housing crisis

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said on Tuesday he would not seek re-election later this year, stepping aside during an affordability crisis that has pitted residents against speculators in Canada’s most expensive housing market.

FILE PHOTO: Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson speaks during the North American Climate Summit in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo

Robertson, 53, serving his third term as mayor of the west coast Canadian city, said in a Facebook post that after consulting with friends and family, he made the “bittersweet choice” not to run in the October election.

He said he would spend the last 10 months of his term focusing on transit projects, notably a proposed subway line connecting the city’s east and west sides, and on “aggressive action to approve record levels of affordable housing.”

A former juice entrepreneur, Robertson was first elected mayor in November 2008, after vowing to end homelessness in the city.

A decade later, homelessness has gotten worse, housing prices have doubled and rents are soaring, putting strain on local businesses, with restaurants, retailers and even the city itself struggling to find enough workers.

The typical price for a Vancouver home is now C$1.1 million ($877,053) in the city’s east and C$1.4 million on the west side, putting home ownership well out of reach for many residents.

Faced with a public outcry over the housing crisis, the city imposed an empty-home tax, announced a 10-year strategy to build more affordable housing for residents and enacted restrictions on home-sharing websites like Airbnb.

The moves came too late for many voters, who have long criticized Robertson and his Vision Vancouver party for having too close ties with developers. In a recent special election for a city council seat, the Vision candidate placed fifth.

Robertson gained international attention as the face of Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics, and more recently for his relationship with Chinese pop star Wanting Qu.

Reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by Peter Cooney

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