Limiting the supply of housing in Vancouver will only make a bad situation worse
Regardless of which pollster you ask, the question of affordable housing seems to be a top issue of concern for most Metro Vancouver residents.
Nowhere is the topic more relevant than in a city like Vancouver, where a tear-down property can easily fetch in excess of $2 million. But faced with this housing market reality, are city governments really equipped to do anything about it?
During the 2008 civic campaign, Mayor Gregor Robertson pledged to make Vancouver an affordable place to live. After three years in office, do you really feel like he’s made any significant progress on this file?
Despite the grandiose promises coming from our civic politicians, there are only a handful of tools available to them to help make Vancouver affordable again. However, they are controversial, and not always that easy to implement.
Ask any economist and they’ll tell you the high cost of living is driven mainly by factors relating to supply and demand. The reason most homes in Vancouver sell in the million-plus range is simply because there is a pool of people willing to purchase them. If the demand for housing is high, so too will be the price.
City officials are somewhat powerless to quell global demand for housing, but they do have the power to significantly facilitate supply through proper zoning. Increased supply alongside high demand can result in more affordable housing.
Vancouver politicians wanting to increase overall supply as a means of keeping prices down face a major policy conundrum. It’s the fact that most of the land within its borders is already built out with
low-density single family homes. If you want to increase supply you need to either build up or in back lanes. That, folks, is why we will still be debating affordable housing well past the 2014 civic election.
If Vancouver doesn’t want to tackle the supply issue, at least it should reduce the exorbitant fees, red tape and processing times associated with building the kind of homes we need. Reducing the inputcosts of building a home should translate into a less expensive product.
If you want to get a taste of what our civic politicians are saying about affordable housing, you should attend a mayoral debate focusing on this topic being held on Monday, Nov. 7. The event is
sponsored by 24 hours Vancouver and is being hosted by End Homelessness Now. Both Gregor Robertson and Suzanne Anton will be on stage at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church located at 1012 Nelson Street. The doors open to the public at 6:30 p.m.
– Post by Daniel. You can follow us on on Twitter @CityCaucus or you can "like" us on Facebook at facebook.com/citycaucus. This column first appeared in 24 Hours Vancouver on Thursday, November 3, 2011.