Alan Durning of the Sightline Institute maintains that more housing supply is the solution to housing affordability. Lots of housing.  
From News1130:

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – While Vancouver City Council looks at ways to put a roof over the head of more locals, a recent report out of Seattle shines a spotlight on how other major centres have been able to build their way to affordability.
“While housing prices in Vancouver, as in my home city of Seattle, have been going through the roof, cities around the world have been keeping housing prices flat or rising very slowly by building lots and lots of housing,” says Alan Durning, executive director of Sightline Institute.
“In the United States, Houston has housing that is no more expensive than it was in the 1980s, even though the population has been growing extraordinarily quickly and incomes have been rising,” he tells NEWS 1130.

“In Canada, Montreal housing prices are less than half as much as in Greater Vancouver, largely because they have been building plenty of housing. And Tokyo, a very dense city like Vancouver, has kept housing prices flat even as the population and incomes have been rising in the city.”
Durning says that goes counter to the conventional wisdom that you can’t build your way out of a housing affordability problem.
“I hear it all the time: Prosperous, growing, tech-rich cities from Seattle to the Bay Area and from Austin to Boston are all gripped by soaring rents and home prices,” he recently posted in a Sightline blog.
“But what if you can build your way to affordable housing? What if, in fact, building is the only path to affordable housing? What if cities around the world have been building their way to affordability for decades? You can. It is. And they have.”
Sprawling Houston and dense Tokyo have done it by keeping red tape for construction at a minimum; Montreal’s zoning is largely for efficient and affordable low- and mid-rises.
“Vienna is a really interesting case where most of the housing is public or non-profit. It still has housing prices less than half as high as in Seattle or Vancouver,” he adds.
Durning says while regional or governmental differences may prevent every model from being successful in the Pacific Northwest, all have lessons for Vancouver.
“To have affordable housing, you have to build homes in great abundance, and without that, other affordability strategies … can be fruitless or counterproductive,” he concludes in his blog.
“Building plenty of housing is not just one way to affordability, it is the only way—the foundation on which other affordability solutions, measures against displacement, and programs for inclusion rest.”



    1. As someone pointed out in another thread, there’s a qualitative dimension to supply
      In Montreal for every unit lost to development, thirty are created. In Vancouver it’s only five, per CMHC.
      That implies a more expensive sort of “supply” is going on in Vancouver than in Montreal that must buy out so many more existing uses to permit as many new ones.
      If it were up to developers, given that each new unit in Vancouver currently makes more money than one in Montreal, it would be logical for that ratio to be higher here than there

  1. This is a collection of assertions with no data, I’m not sure what the point of it is except to fuel an already fraught discussion with dubious information. “In Canada, Montreal housing prices are less than half as much as in Greater Vancouver, largely because they have been building plenty of housing.” – how was that conclusion arrived at?

  2. A comment I heard someone make once is that no developer will build enough to deliberately drop prices, because to do so would be to lose money.
    If we’re talking about building rental, or the city building housing and not caring about making a profit, then I think the above does work (by all means, build build build) … otherwise the best the Montreal example shows is that building more slows or stops the increase in prices, but even then, the number of years to ‘catch up’ given little wage increase to speak of is significant … so at best, building more doesn’t hurt (except if it displaces rental) but to say it helps (unless it’s non-market) is questionable.
    If the land cost is separated from the purchase price (leasehold, land trust, etc) then it is inherently again non-market, and in that case again I think the (by all means, build build build) applies.
    MichaelM alluded to this earlier: … assuming developers themselves aren’t making windfalls over and above land cost … the only way to significantly affect prices is to affect land cost.
    This change in effective land cost could be because there is a crash in the market, or because sufficient subdivision of land (by upzoning, or by allowing more houses on one site) is possible in sufficient places that net property price goes down while gross property price changes little (this will only happen if such subdivision possibilities are no longer rare) … or by (leasehold, land trust, etc).
    My take from this is that if you truly want to build your way to affordability, be Vienna, not Montreal.

  3. Montreal housing is cheaper than Vancouver because:
    1.) It has never fully recovered from Quebec’s bid for sovereignty in the 70’s that sent businesses and jobs fleeing.
    2.) Montreal has very high taxes.
    3.) Montreal residents historically have preferred to rent rather than own following European traditions.
    4.) Montreal has the largest snow removal budget in North America and one of the highest in the world.

    1. Montreal has lower wages, higher unemployment, a brutal winter, more debt per capital, higher taxes, higher energy costs and less immigrants. Many immigrants are also lower income profile and almost no Asian immigrants with serious money ( more Jewish or Middle East immigrants though ) French is a serious disadvantages for many immigrants.
      So all in all: less economically vibrant with less means, thus lower home prices in Montreal.
      In the least 2 years or so that has started to change and as such prices have also risen.
      Immigration and housing prices need to be discussed in the same context, but often are not. Why?

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