Last Wednesday, the mayor addressed a full class at the Board of Trade, with a PowerPoint lecture that outlined the City’s progress on the housing crisis.

Not your grandfather’s BoT

With some helpful slides and a low-key professorial manner, he articulated some obvious but rarely made points:

  • We have in this society “a full-blown capitalist housing system” – 91 percent of housing developed by the private sector; 9 percent public.
  • Maps don’t end at Boundary Road.

  • The key to addressing labour supply needs and provide access to jobs is a good regional transit system.

Then, another chart:

Snap quiz: how many of us knew the City had almost reached its housing target for the shelterless?  In fact, except for minimum wage citizens, the results look pretty good.  Or so the mayor thought until he saw the media coverage.   Because good results, as the politician in the mayor noted, is not how data is portrayed.  But it is why the debate and discussion has shifted more and more to affordable rental.

The dilemma, as Kennedy stated, is this:

How do we provide new non-market housing options (shelterless to living wage) without touching the older stock that already provides a lot of the affordable housing.  In other words, when you have to tear something down in a built-out city (or change the scale of existing neighbourhoods with increased density), you will not be well received.

By the end, it was evident why, as prof or politico, Kennedy Stewart gets a passing grade.  So far.


Here are this student’s notes, with a short essay to be graded:

We’re all familiar with those maps that show how the colours of high income and housing prices, blue in the maps above, have smurfed their way towards the City’s eastern border.  But when seen metro-wide, it’s also evident that the lower-income areas have grown dramatically as well.  Both are typically spun as negatives.  But are they simply what we should have reasonably expected?

The question for our data analysts is this: when adjusted for population and higher income growth, how are the ratios different from 1980 to 2015?  In particular, is the growth in Vancouver blue what an extrapolation done in 1980 would have predicted for 2015 when looked at regionally?

The unstated assumption in our debate is this: the City of Vancouver should have the same range of neighbourhoods as measured in income and housing costs today as it has had in the past, regardless of population growth and expansion of the region.  Politically we expect housing problems to be addressed within the 44 square miles of the City, regardless of what else happens elsewhere.

Is that realistic?  And, with a good transportation system, does it matter that much?



  1. “when adjusted for population and higher income growth, how are the ratios different from 1980 to 2015?”

    If you look at the report by David Hulchanski these maps come from you get a better idea of how things are changing: wealthy neighbourhoods are getting wealthier and middle class or mixed neighbourhoods are disappearing. Vancouver is getting more polarized. Spatial segregation by income is becoming more acute.

    While the proportion of high and very high census tracts stayed stable (21% in both 1980 and 2015), the richest census tract had an average individual income 2 times the CMA average income in 1980, but that more than doubled to 4.6x the average income in 2015!

    Census tracts between 80 and 120% of the average income decreased from 66% in 1980 to 58% in 2015, while census tracts with an average income of less than 80% of the CMA average increased from 14% to 29% of all census tracts. It should be noted that the poorest census tract decreased from 43% of the average in 1980 to 41% in 2015, not a dramatic decrease but a decrease nonetheless.

    Its only not realistic to expect a municipality with 1/4 of the regions population to “solve” housing inequity if we believe the only way to solve the crisis is to relying exclusively on market housing, or to expect any municipality to solve it by themselves when they only raise ~12% of total taxes paid to all levels of government in Canada. The solution lies in a massive increase in public housing investment with the express goal of reducing housing inequity. Sweden built a million subsidized homes ( ) between 1965 and 1974 when their population was 7.5 million. To reach a similar level of investment Horgan’s housing plan needs to be more than tripled. Vancouver can be a playground for the rich with working class people pushed to the fringes and consigned to long commutes or it can be a functioning urban area that provides opportunities for all. It’s a matter of priorities and political will that requires taking some of the massive unearned property wealth appropriated by the propertied class and spending it on truly affordable public housing. 35 years of neoliberal economics have created more homeless and more destitution and there seems very little willingness to acknowledge that solutions must be more bold than defining $1500/month for a studio as “affordable.”

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