Both Peter Ladner in Business in Vancouver and columnist Daphne Bramham in the Vancouver Sun have featured comments made by Larry Beasley, the former Co-Director of Planning at the City of Vancouver. Larry is a thoughtful and analytical planner whose mindfulness shaped the downtown peninsula into a world-class paradigm. I’d also credit him along with his engaged and artful planning staff in refining the concept of Vancouverism-the mixed use form, space and structure that is admired by many.
It’s no secret that even though there were over 27,000 Metro Vancouver unit building starts in 2016 (which is 57 per cent over the 10 year average) that not enough people are getting housed. As Peter Ladner notes “With the average household at 2.6 people, that’s enough supply for almost 70,000 new people, but population growth last year was 30,700 people. We’re building more than enough to accommodate local population growth, but not investment demand.”
In a global economy where housing is being bought for an investment instead of as necessary accommodation, there is not enough housing to go around. The foreign buyer’s tax and increasing property taxes could add to the supply, but more is needed.
Larry Beasley “has concluded that we need to build out a “third sector” to deal with middle-class affordability: new supply that’s secured for locals and for certain groups of consumers.” Larry is thinking of a “semi-market” housing targeted to middle-class income earners. One example would be reviving self-owned co-ops, where some units subsidize other units. Or we could follow Melbourne’s requirement for new big job centres to include employee housing. Or ramp up inclusionary zoning to require new high-end condo developments to include some fixed-price units. Madrid and Whistler are two places that have created non-profit home ownership: homes sold to local workers to build equity, but they can be sold only at a pre-determined rate, with little or no profit.”
Larry Beasley describes this third sector of housing as “semi-market, and could include co-housing which includes some shared living space. Such a third housing sector would require collaboration between governments, developers, banks and non-profits. Most notably, such housing could include “as much as 30% of the housing market, securing the kind of affordability that would guarantee the diversity of our region for years to come.”