Governance & Politics
June 22, 2018

Discussion: Is Vancouver Truly ‘Making Room’ for More Affordable Housing for All?

Amidst the ongoing housing affordability crisis in the Vancouver region, and just four months before municipal elections, City of Vancouver council earlier this week unanimously approved a new financial strategy for the Housing Vancouver strategy.

Intended to support the addition of 72,000 new homes across Vancouver over the next 10 years — half of which will serve households earning less than $80k/year, and two-thirds of which will be for renters — this is just one among a number of decisions made by Council supporting their Making Room program, including:

  • creating Affordable Housing Endowment Fund
  • allocation of first $8M of Empty homes tax revenue to support co-ops, rent bank and SRO upgrades
  • amendments that would: allow triplexes, quadplexes and other multi-unit forms in low density neighbourhoods; set maximum unit sizes in low-density neighbourhoods; reduce or eliminate parking requirements; provide greater support for projects with community benefit, such as new rental, co-ops, co-housing or land trusts; and, in some circumstances, reduce or eliminate setback requirements and design guidelines that limit housing options.

All of Wednesday’s actions are summarized in this press release from the city.

Some critics have expressed concern that increasing allowable density on sites without significant changes to the rezoning and development permit process will just recreate the same affordability crisis we are in today, thus “kicking the can down the road”.

Are we sure this will bring affordability and sufficient options to the city? We asked some regular Price Tags contributors what they thought.

Photo: Lanefab Design/Build. Check out their #NoAssemblyRequired collection on Pinterest: “Built Examples of Small Lot Multifamily Housing”.

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Trust the New York Times to call it like it is.

As the newspaper astutely observed this past weekend:

Last year, in a provincial election almost entirely about housing costs, citizens voted out the center-right B.C. Liberal Party, which had run British Columbia for 16 years, and brought in a government led by the left-of-center B.C. New Democratic Party. Since then, the New Democrats have not only tried to increase the housing supply, but have also proposed a slew of measures that aim to curb housing demand and chase away overseas buyers.

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Just in case you missed  rocketsurgeon’s response to The Cranky Version:

Thank you for writing on this.  Before the recession hit, I remember hearing a lot of “if you don’t fly first class, your kids will”.  These comments often came from some (otherwise) very likable people.

Here in BC, I could have shown many upper middle-class parents what they saved in income tax over the past ten years vs what their children had to put up in tuition increases.  At the time, I heard the arrangement would teach them character.  The kids have to have skin in the game or else, heaven forbid, they might go and study in one of those unemployable fields that teach critical thought.

There are many ways individuals and institutions in one generation may take from the next, some of them unknowingly or with the best of intentions.  As an example, CMHC can stretch out amortization periods and lower down payment requirements.  These changes helped cause a bid-up in prices. The organization pushed out press releases claiming increased affordability.

In pension plans, return assumptions can remain in the overoptimistic 7-9% range because well, we just don’t know what the market will do in the future and by the way, these assumptions allow us to keep monthly contributions low.

There are also the macro issues:  Non-renewable resources consumed at ever-increasing rates.  Non-sustainable agricultural practices can decrease food yields very gradually before they drop off a cliff.  Air pollution, demographic challenges and overpopulation, global warming.  You can probably think of more.

The majority of these problems were known and have been known for many years.  It was convenient not to act.  The unsustainable lifestyle junkies need an intervention.

There’s a Mark Twain quote, “… man is what he is – loving toward his own, lovable to his own – his family, his friends – and otherwise the buzzing, busy, trivial enemy of his race – who tarries his little day, does his little dirt, commends himself to God, and then goes out into the darkness to return no more, and send no messages back – selfish even in death.”

The most frustrating part is that I have found some in this age group who have become depressed, incredibly vulnerable, unprepared mentally and financially for their later years.  In spite of all the prosperity, they need support.

– rocketsurgeon

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