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Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson listens during an announcement about the expansion of the Sun Life Financial Musical Instrument Lending Library program, in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday March 6, 2017. Mr. Robertson is among a growing list of voices urging Andrew Weaver to reject the Liberals in favour of the NDP.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Vancouver's mayor is openly rooting for the New Democrats and the Greens to co-operate to form a government in B.C.'s minority legislature, saying the parties would deliver needed money to city housing projects to make them truly affordable for renters.

As Mayor Gregor Robertson announced Thursday that the city is offering eight new sites for affordable-housing proposals, he said that those projects need a layer of provincial and federal money to reduce the rents beyond what the city can achieve by providing free land.

And he is not looking to the Liberal Party for that.

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"Certainly, the Greens and the NDP both made important commitments to addressing housing," he said.

The future of the B.C. government remains unclear after the May 9 election, which has left the BC Liberals under Premier Christy Clark one seat short of a majority. The third-place Greens hold the balance of power, and Leader Andrew Weaver is considering overtures from both the Liberals and NDP for his support.

Mr. Robertson, himself a former New Democrat MLA, is among a growing list of voices, including environmentalists and First Nations groups, urging Mr. Weaver to reject the Liberals in favour of the NDP.

"We're hopeful that there's an opportunity to get much more dedicated provincial government [funding], partnering on these sites in particular," he said.

Mr. Robertson said the New Democrats and Greens did a lot to address urban issues, which appealed to local residents, and "that's why voters in Vancouver did not support a Liberal government."

The election results were largely split along urban-rural lines, with the New Democrats outperforming the Liberals in major cities, including Vancouver. The NDP won eight of the city's 11 seats, picking up a new seat by defeating a cabinet minister, with the Liberals winning the remaining three. The NDP captured 52 per cent of the vote in the City of Vancouver; the Liberals had 34 per cent.

The new affordable housing sites announced on Thursday are scattered through downtown, the east side, and the southeast corner of the city.

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The land is worth $72.5-million, which city housing planners say is enough to bring rents down somewhat below normal market rates.

But, even with free land, likely only a very small proportion of the anticipated 1,350 new homes would be rented at welfare or seniors' pension rates. The rest would be a mix of lightly subsidized units or units that rent for close to market rates.

The latest announcement is part of the city's aggressive efforts in the past year to demonstrate that it is tackling the city's increasingly difficult housing issue, as real-estate prices and rents continue to rise.

The mayor announced the release of four sites for development offers last August out of 20 the city has available for affordable-housing projects, saying that would result in 400 new affordable homes.

In October, it announced that another three sites in the East Fraserlands neighbourhood of southeast Vancouver had been approved for development of three low-cost projects with 250 units.

That same month, the city also announced it would partner with Vancouver Coastal Health and the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation to create 250 low-cost homes and a health centre on a vacant lot on East Hastings in the Downtown Eastside.

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To date, no construction has started on any of the projects.

So far, the province has agreed to provide additional money to just two of the 20 sites Vancouver has made available, said the CEO of the city's affordable housing agency, Luke Harrison.

Ms. Clark made big promises in the lead-up to the election to invest in rental housing, promising a half-billion dollars for 2,900 units.

Some of that money has been allocated to various projects, but not for the majority of the city sites so far.

There has been no word from the federal government about whether any money is available for any of the city sites, in spite of many campaign promises and a budget announcement about new investments in housing.

Columnist Gary Mason says British Columbia is now a divided province, with the Liberals finding support in the interior and north, while the NDP dominates in Metro Vancouver. But the latter region is growing while the interior remains stagnant, leaving a question over the Liberals' future election prospects.
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