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The Mayor of Vancouver and the Chief City Planner Gil Kelley have jointly submitted an editorial which has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. Under the headline “Vancouver Looks to Collaborate with San Francisco on Housing Solutions” there is an out of context photo of the housing on First Nations Land beside the Tsawwassen Mills Mall. This housing is lease hold land not free hold, but the caption states that this housing “starts at $619,900” and is part of an “economic boom“.
And here are portions of the Mayor’s and Mr. Kelley’s text: “The cities of the North American West Coast share so much as vibrant, sustainable and prosperous places to live and work in the 21st century. However, our success is no accident; through thoughtful city planning, San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia are cities that are the envy of the world.
We also face a common threat to that livability. We are seeing unprecedented escalation in housing costs for our working families, the “missing middle” and young professionals, as well as the increasing pressure on our most vulnerable populations…
We’ve learned the causes of the housing crisis are deep and powerful: housing is increasingly not “home” first but rather a commodity for investment on a global market for investors large and small, foreign and local, as interest rates remain low and equity searches for substantial returns. Who can blame the couple with equity to invest for buying a house or a condo that in a few years might double their return and provide a nest egg? For larger real estate interests, building and selling at the top of an ever upward-moving market or “reno-victing” tenants to increase rents are a matter of “rational” market behavior…
In Vancouver, we hope to get ahead of the same pressures San Francisco is facing. We’re taking action to limit speculative investment and put our housing stock to its best use by implementing Canada’s first Empty Homes Tax, a 1 percent annual tax on empty or under-used residential properties. We are preparing an ambitious 10-year housing strategy to lay the foundation for a diverse and equitable city. It starts with the notion that supply is not the issue — we have produced lots of housing over the past decade — but rather lack of the “right supply….
As a city similar to San Francisco with a finite supply of land, Vancouver will rely on density bonuses to augment our inclusionary housing requirements, as the primary tools to incentivize developers to provide the range of rental housing we need. We are also looking across all of our neighborhoods — from transit station areas and major corridors to single-family neighborhoods — for creative infill opportunities that maintain the character of these neighborhoods while providing new homes. These opportunities might include duplexes, row homes, town houses and more…
Overall, we aim to produce over the next decade about 7,000 new homes per year affordable to various household sizes and income levels, and not exceeding 30 percent of the household income on housing costs. Like San Francisco, our greatest reservoir of affordable housing is actually already built and rented by working singles and families, students and elderly residents on fixed incomes. We will need to look at ways to secure or replace much of that as affordable long-term rental stock…
We believe it is time for our mayors and planning directors to formalize a working West Coast Collaborative to tackle this and other issues facing our beautiful and prosperous cities, to share experiences and learn from each other as we advance our efforts to remain just and sustainable places. We hope you will join us.”
The full text of this opinion editorial can be found here.
The housing-income disconnect
Vancouver, British Columbia
$56,474 (in U.S. dollars) Median total household income (2015)
$1.119 million Median single-family home price (3Q, 2017)
$88,518 Median total household income (2015)
$1.130 million Median single-family home price