city of surrey

Linda Hepner delivers final State of the City address as Surrey mayor

Hepner announced that the city plans to hire a director of housing to come up with and execute a "made-in-Surrey" housing strategy.

JENNIFER SALTMAN Updated: September 19, 2018

The City of Surrey plans to hire a director of housing to develop and execute a housing strategy for the growing municipality.

“I think a housing director, at this point in Surrey’s history, is going to be critical,” Mayor Linda Hepner said on Wednesday, following her fourth and final State of the City address.

Hepner said a lack of affordable housing was not only a Vancouver problem — it’s a problem for the entire region. Surrey needed to have a strategy that looks at what kinds of projects were needed, she said, and it had to be tailored to the city.

“I think that what we’ve always been is a place where people can see themselves and their families growing, so I think as we’ve grown that now is the right time for a housing director,” Hepner said, pointing out that most big cities had such a position.

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She couldn’t say whether the position would be filled before the municipal election takes place on Oct. 20, but she expected the process would be underway by then.

Housing was one topic Hepner touched on during her wide-ranging speech, which for the most part read like a love letter to the city she has served — first as city staff, then councillor and finally as mayor — for more than 30 years.

After one term as mayor, Hepner is not running for re-election.

She reflected on the changes that had taken place over the past three decades, including skyrocketing population and more festivals and park space, as well as the development of post-secondary institutions.

Hepner touched on achievements during her tenure. At the top of the list was the removal of a tent city on 135A Street and the rehousing of its residents, the recent release of a report from the Mayor’s Task Force on Gang Violence Prevention, and the addition of 134 RCMP officers along with the hiring of a public safety director.

On policing, Hepner said it’s time to have a broader discussion about policing in the city, and what kind of police force Surrey should have.

“When you have episodes of tragedy in your community, there’s a lot of emotion and during an election period it escalates into fear mongering. I would just hope that everybody is prepared to look at it with a full-on study with facts and analysis, and let’s make the best decision for a growing community,” she said after her address.

Another hot election issue was the debate over whether Surrey should ditch its plan to build at-grade light rail in favour of SkyTrain, even though LRT was fully funded and procurement had started. She called it a done deal and said she found the debate incredibly frustrating.

“I think elections are always driven by different points of view — and that’s healthy — but I think that sometimes we get lost in the minutia of language and we don’t settle into what is the reality of fact,” she said.

Hepner said in her speech that she hoped the next mayor and council would work together and lead the city into its “next great chapter.”

If Hepner were to leave a note for the next mayor, it would be “short and sweet and in big, bold letters,” she said, becoming tearful.

“Be good to this city, because it is headed for greatness.”

https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/linda-hepner-delivers-final-state-of-the-city-address-as-surrey-mayor